Entonox: Understanding the Risks and Controlling Hazards
Entonox – a medical gas commonly used in maternity wards as pain relief– has hit the media headlines this week, with several hospitals in the UK deciding to temporarily suspend the use.
What are the Risks?
Exposure to Entonox – a trade name for nitrous oxide – isn’t without risk. In addition to environmental concerns associate with the gases greenhouse potential, regular exposure can cause significant health effects, including reducing ability to absorb vitamin B12, leading to deficiency and associated anaemia, causing the body to produce abnormal red blood cells which cannot function properly. It is important to remember that the risks from exposure occur following regular, repeated exposures.
Controlling The Hazards
Despite these very real risks, control measures to protect those exposed to Entonox at work can be relatively straight forward to implement, and typically includes:
- Ensuring delivery systems are set up correctly
- Inspecting delivery systems prior to use
- Providing patients with well fitting masks to avoid leaks
- Using gas scavenging systems or Entonox “cracking” systems, which split residual gas into nitrogen and oxygen
- Ensuring general room ventilation is switched on, functioning and achieving the require number of room changes
- Training employees on risks associated with Entonox and the controls
- Putting in place health surveillance and personal risk assessments for anyone B12 deficient
Workplace Air Monitoring
As part of a strategy to understand the risks and current levels of workplace exposure, EEUK Group can assist with workplace air monitoring. With years of experience delivering air monitoring within hospital theatre, maternity and endoscopy environments, out team of experts use unobtrusive sampling tubes to assess levels of personal exposure. We can also arrange specialist monitoring equipment to provide real-time data on levels of Entonox.
Once current levels of exposure are understood, our team develop a tailored action plan to control the risk and allow sites to work safely with Entonox gas.