NIOSH logo and tagline

Potential Risk From Glass Capillary Tube Breakage Noted in Advisory by NIOSH, Other Agencies

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 260-8519
February 22, 1999

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) joined with two other government agencies today to alert employers and workers in the healthcare industry about a potential risk of injury and infection from bloodborne pathogens resulting from unintended breakage of glass capillary tubes.

The joint safety advisory from NIOSH, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also suggests steps to protect workers by minimizing the risk of breakage. Glass capillary tubes are the slender tubes widely used for collecting blood in hospitals, physicians’ offices, ambulatory care facilities, blood donation centers, and blood testing centers.

“Many workers use glass capillary tubes routinely in their jobs. It is important that these tasks do not involve a risk of injury,” said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. “We and our fellow agencies are suggesting practical, proven ways of minimizing that risk.”

In reported incidents, glass capillary tubes have broken when inserted into putty to be sealed, and during centrifugation when blood cells are separated from plasma. Data suggest that some 2,800 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 blood collection 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.
  • Products that allow blood cells to be measured without centrifugation.

For a copy of the joint advisory, call the NIOSH toll-free information number at 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674). For further information on NIOSH health and safety research, call the toll-free information number or visit NIOSH on the World Wide Web at