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October 27, 1978

Escaping anesthetic gases may affect neurophysiological functions

JAMA. 1978;240(18):1939. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290180013001

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Potentially serious neurophysiological deficits may occur after on-the-job exposure to fugitive anesthetic gas emissions, according to Lt Comdr Richard A. Ilka, MC, USN, chief of environmental epidemiology at the Navy Environmental Health Center in Cincinnati.

"In 100% of the samples we took at the University of Cincinnati Hospital, the level of anesthetic gases in the operating rooms exceeded the maximum level set by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)," Ilka said.

A NIOSH criteria document on anesthetic gases has set 25 ppm as the maximum level of fugitive emissions in operating rooms. In testing for nitrous oxide, the Cincinnati researchers found average levels of 400 ppm.

"Our studies have shown that even at 50 ppm there can be a measurable decrement in the ability to pick up serious changes in stimuli," Ilka said. "For example, the anesthesiologist must often listen to heart tones while at the same