Upcoming Clothing Standards Target Needles, Chemotherapy Drugs

Subcommittees of ASTM International Committee F23 on Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment are developing two proposed standards to protect health care workers and others from hypodermic needle punctures and contact with chemotherapy drugs. Subcommittee F23.20 on Physical is developing WK15392, Test Method for Protective Clothing Material Resistance to Hypodermic Needle Puncture, and F23.30 on Chemicals is working on WK15563, Specification for Protective Clothing to Be Used against Chemotherapy Drugs.

No current clothing test standard covers medical needle puncture resistance. Cliff Richardson (651-651-2562, crichardson@hdri.com), director of research and development at Higher Dimension Materials, Inc., and chair of the WK15392 task group, said the closest test method now available is ASTM standard F 1342, Test Method for Protective Clothing Material Resistance to Puncture, which provides a method for measuring nail-like puncture resistance. "However, the type of puncture probes used in F 1342 are very different from needle puncture because a medical needle has a much smaller diameter and has sharp cutting edges near the tip of the needle," Richardson said. "Consequently, it is much harder to design a flexible material that can stop a medical needle than it is to design a flexible material that can stop a more nail-like probe."

The WK15563 standard is being patterned after D 6978, Practice for Assessment of Resistance of Medical Gloves to Permeation by Chemotherapy Drugs, but will detail barrier and physical qualities of gowns used for health workers handling chemotherapy drugs, said Jeffrey Stull (512-288-8272, intlperpro@aol.com), president of International Personnel Protection, Inc., and chair of Committee F23, WK15563. "Two levels of barrier performance are proposed within the draft specification to address the different levels of exposure that might be expected in a health care setting: larger volumes in mixing or preparation of the drugs and lower volumes or splatter in administration of the drugs," Stull said. Higher barrier requirements can make the gowns less comfortable; having two levels of barrier protection covered in the proposed standard will let health care facilities decide on the appropriate level of protection, he said.

The committee's next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 29-31, 2008, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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