Peracetic Acid is a highly corrosive chemical often used in the healthcare industry for instrument disinfection and also for aseptic processing and packaging in the food & beverage industry. Know the facts for worker safety and process management. 

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Peracetic Acid Chemical Overview

Applications for Use

Hazards and Dangers of Peracetic Acid

Regulations/ Guidelines for Peracetic Acid

Best Safety Practices

Peracetic Acid Monitor

Monitoring Your Environment &

Understanding Peracetic Acid

Peracetic Acid, also known as peroxyacetic acid or PAA, is an organic chemical compound that is used in a mixture with acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide in water. It is a colorless liquid that has a strong vinegar like odor that can be smelt at very low levels. It is a very powerful oxidant, which means that PAA removes electrons from other reactants. This is so powerful it can actually corrode copper, brass, bronze, plain steel, and galvanize iron. PAA chemical is highly reactive but breaks down to acetic acid (vinegar) and water so it leaves no harmful residue, which makes it the chemical of choice when looking for a food-safe antimicrobial.

The process for using peracetic acid as a disinfectant can simply be defined by a combination of hydrogen peroxide, acetic acid and water. PAA functions as a disinfectant by oxidizing the outer cell membrane of microbes. The stronger the solution of Peracetic acid, the more effective it is as an antimicrobial, but the more dangerous to everyone around. This highly biocidial oxidizer removes surface contaminants, such as viruses and spores, in many different ways. As a biocide, peracetic acid shows good efficacy against a broad spectrum of pathogens.

Microbial Activity: PAA will inactivate  gram-positive and  gram-negative bacteria, fungi, and yeasts in <5  minutes at <100 ppm. In the presence of organic matter, 200-500 ppm  is required. For viruses, the dosage range is wide (12 -2250 ppm), with poliovirus inactivated in yeast extract in 15 minutes with 1500 to 2250 ppm. Bacterial spores in suspension are inactivated in 15 seconds to 30 minutes with 500 to 10,000 ppm (0.05 to 1%).

Keep your employees safe by monitoring peracetic acid in the workplace.

Applications for Peracetic Acid (PAA) Disinfection:

  • Treatment of bottles and beverage containers prior to filling
  • Poultry, meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables and other food items to prevent foodborne illnesses
  • Waste water treatment facilities during water purification process prior to discharge
  • Fracking, gas and oil operations as antimicrobial
  • Eliminate powdery mildew on plants
  • Disinfection of medical devices in hospitals and manufacturing

What are the dangers of Peracetic Acid disinfection?

Peracetic Acid safety is a major concern for anyone using it because PAA is corrosive to the eyes, the skin and the respiratory tract.  Exposure can occur as contact with the liquid aerosol or symptoms of acute exposure to peracetic acid vapor include cough, labored breathing, and shortness of breath; skin redness, pain, and blisters; severe deep burns to the eyes, according NIOSH. Concentrations of 15% or higher, also give rise to fire and explosion hazards and reactivity issues. It is important to ensure that training and safety precautions for peracetic acid are in place.

Another major concern is that peracetic acid has a vinegar type odor, even at low levels, so the challenge becomes knowing if your level of exposure is safe... whether you smell it or not.  If you are working around PAA and do not smell it, it's more than likely it is due to olfactory fatigue.  Olfactory fatigue is also known as nose blindness or odor fatigue. While making sure the items you're disinfecting are safe, make sure to keep track of peracetic acid safety where you work.

  • Eye irritation : eye damage after prolonged exposure

  • Respiratory distress: fluid in the lungs after high level 
    of exposure (edema)

  • Nose and throat irritation

  • Asthma associated with workplace exposures

  • Skin irritation dermatitis

  • Data on animals showed: hemorrhage, edema, and pulmonary consolidation

Regulations/ Guidelines for Peracetic Acid

Exposure limits and guidelines when using peracetic acid disinfection have been set by a number of national agencies including the following.  Make sure to follow these for proper PAA safety and training of staff:

OSHA: Occupational and Safety Health Administration
OSHA Hazard Communications 29 CFR 1910.1200

CAL-OSHA: Proposed limits
15-minute STEL of 0.4 ppm
8-hour PEL of 0.15 ppm

: Joint Commission
Joint Commission Standard EC.02.02.01

ACGIH: American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienist
ACGIH Threshold Limit Values TLV :  
15-minute TWA of  0.4 ppm

AAMI : Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrument
AAMI ST:58:2013

Important to note: The constituents that make up Peracetic acid are within themselves heavily regulated, leaving exposure limits and guidelines for PAA only a matter of time.

The regulatory environment concerning peracetic acid is changing. Even if there is no PEL, OSHA can, and has been, issuing citations to employers under the General Duty Clause for employees exposed to vapors above recognized exposure limits set by other organizations.

Best Safety Practices for Peracetic Acid

Monitoring PAA

It is highly recommended to use a combination of continuous fixed area monitoring and portable area monitoring to find danger zones throughout any facility that uses Peracetic Acid.

Continuous fixed area monitoring is recommended in the following areas:

  • Near concentrated PAA totes/tanks, dilution lines, and pump stations

  • Any area where employees have experienced symptoms or known risks are present for exposure

Portable monitoring is recommended as a daily routine through danger zones combined with any additional spot checks needed throughout the day.

Important to note: Peracetic Acid sprayers and dip tanks may put off different levels of vapors each day. Make sure to incorporate vapor monitoring into your QC and safety program. This can be used to assess real-time personal exposure to peracetic acid disinfection on a daily basis.  Facilities can use these monitors to improve work practices, optimize engineering controls, and/or add PPE as needed to ensure the safe use of Peracetic Acid.

Handling & Storage of PAA

Handling of Peracetic Acid
  • At a minimum, chemical-resistant gloves (Neoprene) and splash-proof eye protection should be worn. 

  • Adding a face shield is appropriate if working with larger quantities.  

  • Concentrated PAA should only be handled in a well-ventilated area. 

  • Prolonged exposure, or exposure above OELs may require the use of a suitable respirator. If a respirator is used, it should be full face to protect eyes.

Can use the ChemDAQ monitor to determine what PPE is appropriate

Filter cartridges validated for PAA are available

Storage of Peracetic Acid
PAA decomposes slowly during storage, giving off oxygen.

Use in well ventilated area, or preferably outside.

It is also important to use appropriate materials when sourcing dosing or transferring equipment for concentrated PAA. 

Glass, polyethylene (HDPE/LLDPE) and Teflon (PTFE) are all suitable for handling concentrated solutions. 

Stainless steel and other polymers should only be used where exposure is short term. 
Once diluted to the “at use” concentration (usually 100 ppm – 200ppm), most materials except Tygon and rubber are suitable.

See SDS for specific info for PAA blend used

PAA Spills

In ALL hazardous material spills, the primary concern is the protection of personnel. The secondary concern is to confine the contamination, but ONLY if you are specifically trained under 29 CFR 1910.120 to do so.

Your facility should have its own specific cleanup procedure and all personnel handling such material, should have received instruction on that procedure.

Appropriate PPE should be worn

You can use the ChemDAQ portable monitor to assess the risk

Small Peracetic Acid Spill: 

Dilute with water and mop up, or absorb with an inert dry material 

Place in an appropriate waste disposal container. 

If necessary: Neutralize the residue with a dilute solution of sodium carbonate or other appropriate neutralizer. 

Large Peracetic Acid Spill: 

PAA is a flammable liquid, oxidizing material and organic peroxide.

Most PAA solutions used in poultry/meat processing are <15% and are not flammable 

Keep away from heat and sources of ignition. 

Stop leak ONLY if without risk. 

Absorb with DRY earth, sand or other non-combustible material. 

Avoid contact with a combustible material (wood, paper, oil, clothing...). Keep substance damp using water spray. 

Do not use metal tools or equipment. Do not touch spilled material. Use water spray to reduce vapors. 

Prevent entry into sewers, basements or confined areas; dike if needed. 

Call for assistance on disposal. 

Neutralize the residue with a dilute solution of sodium carbonate. 

Be careful that the product is not present at a concentration level above TLV

It is recommended to design an area where totes are used/stored to control a spill

                        Monitoring solutions for Peracetic Acid.

                        ChemDAQ can help your company ensure worker safety, reduce costs, and easily comply with regulations for Peracetic Acid disinfection.  Use any of the resources below to keep workers safe from the dangers of PAA.

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                        Regulations, Industry Standards and safety information on Peracetic Acid, Hydrogen Peroxide, and Ethylene Oxide.