Staying safe amid mobile mayhem
Even though veterinarians traditionally report high job satisfaction, we all have been overwhelmed at some point. But so has every short-order cook, accountant, sheet metal worker, farmer or waitress. We've all felt like our jobs were killing us. But are they really? And exactly how?
Apart from the occasionally overbooked day and the general difficulties of running any business, what are the health risks of working around horses and cattle, and exactly what kills veterinary practitioners?More than 20 years ago, as part of a class in epidemiology, veterinary students at the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine were treated to a lecture on how they would most likely die. Being young and healthy and naive at the time, it is doubtful that much of what they were told registered. Learning that their predecessors occasionally had suffered from radiation poisoning from old, faulty X-ray machines that were still likely to be found in some practices, or talk of the use of organophosphate pesticides for deworming might lead to significantly more cases of Parkinson's disease probably did not concern these eager soon-to-be practitioners. It has long been said that youth is wasted on the young. Apparently, so are mortality statistics. But some good information does exist concerning the health/life risks faced by veterinarians; these risks have changes somewhat over the last two decades, and a look at what might kill you might just keep you alive and kicking, or at least dodging kicks.
Cancer is always a concern when occupational health risks are discussed because veterinarians are commonly exposed to any number of potential cancer-causing agents. In an article on cancer in veterinarians, Lisa Fritschi of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine at Monosh University in Australia, wrote: "Veterinarians come into contact with several potentially carcinogenic exposures in the course of their occupation. These exposures include radiation, anesthetic gases, pesticides and insecticides and zoonotic organisms."
Drs. Wiggins, Schercher, Green and Samulus of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of California-Davis, noted in research published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, that 41 percent of the veterinarians in their study reported not wearing badges when taking radiographs. The number of equine veterinarians who take radiographs without proper protective aprons and gloves is unknown, but researchers point to the high leukemia statistics and feel that this is an area where practitioners can help themselves stay healthy by simply following standard radiology safety suggestions.