Glass Capillary Tubes: Joint NIOSH, OSHA, FDA Safety Advisory About Potential Risks

NIOSH, OSHA, and the FDA issued a joint safety advisory in February 1999 to alert employers and workers about a potential risk of injury and infection from bloodborne pathogens resulting from unintended breakage of glass capillary tubes. The advisory also suggests steps to protect workers by minimizing the risk of breakage. Glass capillary tubes are used in hospitals, physicians' offices, ambulatory care facilities, blood donation centers, blood testing centers, and research laboratories.
In reported incidents, glass capillary tubes have broken when inserted into putty to be sealed and during centrifugation. Data suggest that some 2800 injuries may occur each year in the U.S. from breakage. One such injury resulted in the transmission of HIV to a physician, who subsequently died of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

The joint safety advisory recommends using capillary tube devices that are less prone to unintended breakage, including:

- Capillary tubes that are not made of glass;

- Glass capillary tubes wrapped in puncture-resistant film;

- Products that use a method of sealing that does not require manually pushing one end of the tube into putty to form a plug; and

- Products that allow blood cells to be measured without centrifugation.