New Evidence-Based Planning Guidance for Patient Decontamination

A draft of the nation’s first evidence-based guidance for mass decontamination, called “Patient Decontamination in a Mass Chemical Exposure Incident: National Planning Guidance for Communities” is open for comment through May 19. A short summary of the guidance can be found here.

Why guidance for patient decontamination? To respond effectively to an event that involves the release of hazardous chemicals, our communities’ first responders, medical providers, and public health officials have requested guidance based on scientific evidence on decontaminating patients in ways that improve health outcomes.

Large quantities of hazardous chemicals are made, transported, stored, and used in homes, offices or industrial settings every day in the United States. Even taking every safety precaution, there still is a risk that the chemicals could be released into the environment either by accident or intentionally to cause harm.

Many toxic chemicals are readily absorbed into the body and cause injury and illness quickly. Decontaminating patients can prevent or limit absorption of the chemical and minimize adverse health effects. Decontamination also can prevent the spread of contamination to other people (including responders and receivers) and to health care equipment and facilities.

The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Health Affairs worked with experts in a variety of related fields to analyze all of the evidence available on decontamination and develop the guidance. Add your comments to the guidance now.

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