Do You Know the Risks of Using Hydrogen Peroxide?

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.

Continuous monitoring for hydrogen peroxide vapor at the sterilizer is the best way to ensure the safety and health of sterile processing technicians.

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