Nurses and even family caregivers are being asked and expected to handle hazardous drugs, like chemotherapy medication, at a higher rate than ever before. Shockingly, a study conducted by the University of Michigan discovered that 17% of oncology nurses reported failing to use proper PPE when dispensing chemotherapy drugs and being exposed - via eyes or mouth - to the potentially hazardous medication. 
While the NIOSH has issued a large number of guidelines related to PPE and best practices in the handling of chemotherapy and other dangerous drugs, these guidelines are not mandatory and employers are not required to provide personal protective equipment. As a result, professionals and family members who prepare these drugs should consider purchasing their own PPE and/or adhere to the NIOSH guidelines to the best of their ability.

According to the Institute "PPE such as NIOSH-certified respirators and protective clothing must be used to reduce exposure to hazardous drugs when other measures are not possible. The following general guidelines apply to PPE use and care: 

1) Select specific respirators and protective clothing based on an assessment of your potential exposure to hazardous drugs. 

2) Understand the proper use and limitations of any selected PPE to ensure that it functions properly. 

3) Use care in donning and removing all items to prevent damage to PPE and to reduce the spread of contamination. 

4) Ensure that all PPE fits correctly and is constructed of materials that are appropriate for hazardous drug exposure [NIOSH 2004]. Surfaces in areas where hazardous drugs are present may be contaminated with these drugs [NIOSH 2004]. Not all gloves offer adequate protection from dermal exposure to hazardous drugs. Some gloves may permit rapid permeation of hazardous drugs.