TRENTON – Nurses hope New Jersey this fall will join the growing list of states with laws requiring hospitals and ambulatory care centers to have polices in place to evacuate surgical smoke from an operating room as soon as possible.

They say surgical smoke is like cigarette smoke and can causes health problems for patients and particularly medical staff who are in an operating room full-time.

Felix Rivera, an operating room nurse at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, said evacuation equipment gets used in some surgeries but not all.

“The average daily impact of surgical smoke on the operating room team is equivalent to inhaling the smoke of 27 to 30 unfiltered cigarettes,” said Rivera, president of the New Jersey State Council of periOperative Registered Nurses.

Saint Peter’s has had the smoke evacuation devices since 2018.

Mary Ann Donahue-Ryan of the Organization of Nurse Leaders of New Jersey said more than 150 carcinogens can be inhaled during a surgery.

“The vast majority of operating rooms, maternity centers and same-day surgical centers are not using the correct devices to protect staff and their patients and lack specific guidelines and directives to remedy this situation,” Donahue-Ryan said.

Marie Costa, an operating room nurse for 53 years, said advanced medical technology such as lasers provides for faster and more accurate surgeries – but at a cost, as they emit a plume that can fill the operating room.

“I have known older surgeons and seasoned operating room nurses like myself who have developed asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, leukemia and some have even died as a result of a lifetime career exposure to these toxins,” Costa said.

In around 10 states, lawmakers have begun hearings and votes on the proposal or governors have signed it into law.

The New Jersey version of the plan was endorsed by the Senate and Assembly health committees in June. The Assembly version was referred to the labor committee for another vote before it can reach the full Assembly.

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The New Jersey State Council of periOperative Registered Nurses expects the bill will be approved when lawmakers return in the fall.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

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