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Cancer Risk Of Incremental Exposure To Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons In Electrocautery Smoke For Mastectomy Personnel

Hsin-Shun Tseng, Shi-Ping Liu, Shi-Nian Uang, Li-Ru Yang, Shien-Chih Lee, Yao-Jen Liu, Dar-Ren Chen

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Abstract Background Electrocautery applications in surgical operations produce evasive odorous smoke in the cleanest operation rooms. Because of the incomplete combustion of electrical current in the tissues and blood vessels during electrocautery applications, electrocautery smoke (ES) containing significant unknown chemicals and biological forms is released. The potential hazards and cancer risk should be further investigated from the perspective of the occupational health of surgical staff. Methods The particle number concentration and the concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in ES were thoroughly investigated in 10 mastectomies to estimate the cancer risk for surgical staff. The particle number concentration and gaseous/particle PAHs at the surgeons’ and anesthetic technologists’ (AT) breathing heights were measured with a particle counter and filter/adsorbent samplers. PAHs were soxhlet-extracted, cleaned, and analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Results Abundant submicron particles and high PAH concentrations were found in ES during regular surgical mastectomies. Most particles in ES were in the size range of 0.3 to 0.5 μm, which may potentially penetrate through the medical masks into human respiration. The average particle/gaseous phase PAH concentrations at the surgeon’s breathing height were 131 and 1,415 ng/m3, respectively, which is 20 to 30 times higher than those in regular outdoor environments. By using a toxicity equivalency factor, the cancer risk for the surgeons and anesthetic technologists was calculated to be 117 × 10-6 and 270 × 10-6, respectively; the higher cancer risk for anesthetic technologists arises due to the longer working hours in operation rooms. Conclusions The carcinogenic effects of PAHs in ES on the occupational health of surgical staff should not be neglected. The use of an effective ES evacuator or smoke removal apparatus is strongly suggested to diminish the ES hazards to surgical staff.