Randy Yohe Published

Protection From Toxic Surgical Smoke Key To Proposed Health Legislation 

lady with black hair and red lips speaking in large room into microphone
Del. Heather Tully explains the health dangers of surgical smoke.
Perry Bennett/WV Legislative Photography

A bill to protect medical operation room workers from dangerous surgical smoke is moving through the West Virginia Legislature.

House Bill 4376, reintroduced this session, sets fines for medical facilities that fail to properly evacuate operation room smoke from heat generating surgical instruments such as those used in electrosurgery or electric cautery.

On third reading in the House of Delegates, Health Committee Vice-Chair Heather Tully, R-Nicholas, spoke to the bill on the floor and explained the dangers of not clearing the air.

“It can carry toxic chemicals, bacteria, viruses and tumors,” Tully said. “It can obscure the surgical field and it can be inhaled. Surgical smoke has a noxious odor that can cause physical symptoms such as watery eyes and throat irritation, in addition to having the potential to cause dangerous and life threatening respiratory diseases.” 

The bill charges the Office of the Inspector General to propose rules requiring a health care facility that uses energy-generating devices to use a smoke evacuation system during any surgical procedure that is likely to produce surgical smoke.

Any violating health facility would face fines of not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 for each violation.

House Bill 4376 passed 97-0 and again goes to the Senate for confirmation.