Are You Using Hydrogen Peroxide?
Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) gas is widely used in healthcare as a low temperature sterilant for heat and moisture sensitive items that come in contact with patients. Hydrogen Peroxide gas is very effective since it is a strong oxidizing agent that rapidly breaks down to oxygen and water leaving no harmful residues. However, hydrogen peroxide vapors present a significant risk of harm to those people exposed.
Hazards of Hydrogen Peroxide
• Hydrogen Peroxide is a strong oxidant, and can promote combustion.
• Bleaching of the skin and chemical burns.
• Irritating to the eyes and can lead to permanent damage.
• Irritates the respiratory system and prolonged exposure to a few ppm can produce permanent lung damage or pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs).
Occupational Exposure Limits
• The OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL) for hydrogen peroxide, is the SAME as the PEL for ethylene oxide, 1 ppm calculated as an 8-hour time weighed average TWA.
• NIOSH has set Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) limit at 75 ppm.
• The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has a threshold limit value (TLV) at 1 ppm calculated as an 8 hour TWA. The ACGIH also classifies hydrogen peroxide as a known animal carcinogen with unknown relevance to humans.
How are Workers Exposed
• Leaks – Does your sterilizer manufacturer indemnify your facility against leaks?
• Operator Error – Misuse of the sterilizer can expose the operator and other technicians to dangerous vapors.
• Frequency – Due to shorter sterilization cycles, staff are often exposed to high hydrogen peroxide vapor levels several times a day when the door is opened after the sterilization cycle.