A Small Peracetic Acid Spill Causes a Lot of Trouble

The Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Halifax had a relatively small spill of peracetic acid inside an endoscope reprocessor in the urology department. Even though only about two table spoons (~30 ml) spilt, it resulted in one person being sent to the emergency room for observation and a Hazmat crew from the local fire department being called in to deal with it. Even a small spill such as this one can cause significant disruption, probably result in delays in the reprocessing of scopes, which in turn can impact patients.

Peracetic acid is an important compound in both healthcare and food processing since it is highly biocidal but rapidly brakes down to harmless byproducts in the environment thus leaving endoscopes and lettuces free of harmful residues. However those people using peracetic acid run the risk of exposure even with the best equipment. Peracetic acid can be used safely with the appropriate equipment (modern reprocessor, ventilation, continuous gas monitoring system for PAA),  work procedures and training (e.g. what to do in the case of a spill).

PAA has many advantages, but if you use PAA in your day to day operations it is important to be prepared for the worst since a small peracetic acid spill can sue a lot of trouble. This statement does not disparage PAA, since it applies equally well to any chemical biocide.