Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have required the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to develop a rule mandating the use of surgical smoke evacuation in all healthcare facilities. Now the California legislature is taking another crack at getting such a law on the books.
Assemblymember Tony Thurmond introduced the new legislation, designated as AB 402, in February. It recently cleared a significant hurdle, moving forward from the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee by a 12-5 vote.
In their analysis of the new bill, the Appropriations Committee notes that the revised legislation is “substantially similar” to the law that Brown previously vetoed. In his veto statement, Brown expressed concern about the hazards of surgical smoke, but also took exception with the legislature’s overt direction of the Standards Board.
“By specifically requiring the adoption of the regulation … the bill divests the Standards Board of its discretion to consider a proposed standard for adoption and instead mandates it to do so,” Brown wrote. “This Board was created as an independent body and I believe that independence must be maintained in order for it to effectively perform its mission and protect all California workers.”
It’s not immediately clear if the modifications made to AB 402 will satisfactorily address the governor’s concerns.
California Nurses Association/National Nurses United have thrown their support behind the bill, noting the significant health risk associated with exposure to surgical smoke plume.
“The plume can contain toxic gases and vapors such as benzene, hydrogen cyanide, and formaldehyde, biological aerosols (a suspension of living bacteria, viral particles or fungal spores), and viruses and blood fragments containing blood borne pathogens, including multi-resistant strains,” the organization writes.
“Surgical plume is also known to contain mutagenic (cancer producing) particles,” they add. “One study equated the mutagenic condensate generated from one gram of tissue to three cigarettes from lasers and six cigarettes for electrocautery smoke. At high concentrations, plume is also known to cause ocular and upper respiratory tract irritation in health care personnel.”
The full California legislature is expected to take up the bill later this session.