What are cytotoxic medications?

  • Cytotoxic medications, also known as antineoplastic agents, are primarily used to treat cancer, most often as part of a chemotherapy treatment. Click here for a full list of cytotoxic medications.
  • Cytotoxic medications inhibit cell growth, and both cancerous cells and non-cancerous cells are affected and damaged.
  • Cytotoxic medication use is growing. They are being used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid and juvenile arthritis.
  • Cytotoxic medications enter the body through inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, and through handling of contaminated body waste. Workers who interact with cytotoxic medications (preparing or administering them as well as cleaning equipment, linens, or facilities) have tested positive for them.

Click here to report your exposure to cytotoxic medications to both AUPE and WCB.

Acute concerns

Acute concerns

Acute health concerns include skin, eye and mucous membrane irritation, allergic reactions, and hair loss.

Chronic concerns

Chronic concerns

Chronic health concerns include liver, kidney, lung and heart damage.

Pregnancy concerns

Pregnancy concerns

Pregnancy-related health concerns include spontaneous abortions, malformed fetuses, and infertility.

Hazard Assessment

Hazard Assessment

Ask your employer for a copy of their policies and procedures when dealing with cytotoxic medications. Also ask to review a copy of your hazard assessment, and review how your employer eliminates or controls the hazard.

Handling Medication

Handling Medication

Wear protective gloves made of vinyl or nitrile rubber. Wear two pairs of gloves at a time. Wear a long sleeved gown with elastic cuffs. Also wear approved eye protection and, if a risk of splashing exists, wear a full-faced shield. If the medication can become airborne, a properly fit-tested respirator, such as a N95 or N100, is strongly recommended.

Handling Waste

Handling Waste

If you handle biological fluids, excretions, contaminated bedding/clothing, or soiled equipment of patients who have received cytotoxic medications, wear two pairs of gloves, a protective gown, a properly fit-tested respirator or a face shield where there is a risk of splashing. All cytotoxic waste materials should be placed in a labelled bag so that other workers are aware of the hazard.

Tell Your Union

Tell Your Union

It is very important that AUPE also know if you've been exposed to cytotoxic medication and if you have filed a report-only claim with WCB. You can use our online Health and Safety Issue Reporting form to send your information directly to our Occupational Health and Safety department.

Click here to report to your union
Tell WCB

Tell WCB

AUPE strongly encourages all workers who have dealt with cytotoxic medications either directly or indirectly and without any proper personal protective equipment to file a workers report with the Workers’ Compensation Board, as a report-only claim.

Click here to report to WCB