Colorado became the second state to pass legislation requiring surgical smoke evacuation systems at hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers on March 28, when Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law. Rhode Island passed a similar law in June 2018.
Effective May 1, 2021, all planned procedures in Colorado which are likely to generate surgical smoke must be conducted in facilities with policies and equipment in place to prevent human exposure to the smoke, which can contain toxic gases and vapors. The systems are designed to capture and neutralize surgical smoke at the point of origin before it reaches the eyes or can be breathed in by people in the room, according to the bill.
Citing figures from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) noted an estimated 500,000 healthcare workers each year are exposed to laser or electrosurgical smoke resulting from thermal destruction of human tissue. This includes surgeons, nurses, anesthesia providers and surgical technologists.
“OSHA’s current guidance on surgical smoke is insufficient to cause consistent use of evacuators in ORs nationwide, and it’s time for states to look closely at the issue as numbers of perioperative nurses suffering from respiratory and other disease as a result of smoke exposure continue to rise,” Linda Groah, MSN, RN, CNOR, executive director and CEO of AORN, said in a press release. “We look forward to continuing to advocate for perioperative nurse health across the country as we see more state legislatures address this issue.”
Oregon is also considering legislation this year to ensure smoke-free operating rooms, according to AORN.