During a recent health hazard evaluation of pharmaceutical dust exposures at an outpatient pharmacy, NIOSH investigators sampled the air for dust and analyzed the samples for active pharmaceutical ingredients as well as lactose, a common inactive filler for tablets. Multiple active pharmaceutical ingredients, as well as lactose, were detected in employees’ personal breathing zones, and one employee was found to have personal air concentrations of lisinopril, a prescription drug, near or above the manufacturer’s exposure limit. Most air concentrations of active pharmaceutical ingredients, however, were below the manufacturers’ exposure limits. During the health hazard evaluation, NIOSH staff noted that work activities, such as using compressed air to clean automatic dispensing machine canisters or filling the canisters with tablets, generated dusts likely containing pharmaceutical ingredients.
NIOSH made several recommendations to help reduce these exposures at the pharmacy and published its findings in a recent health hazard evaluation report. The pharmacy should gather information on the potential for and risks of exposures to active pharmaceutical ingredients as “an important first step,” NIOSH reported. According to the agency, the pharmacy should obtain safety data sheets and manufacturer exposure guidelines for tablets and use that information to create a list of dusty pharmaceuticals that are potentially hazardous. In addition, NIOSH recommended that employees perform dust-generating tasks under a local exhaust hood and use a high efficiency particle air vacuum to clean canisters rather than compressed air.