With advances in sterilization and re-processing technology, hospital technicians are now processing equipments and instruments multiple times per day, with more concentrated sterilants than ever before. This increase in concentration and use also increases the wear and tear on sterilizers and re processors, which increases the potential for employee exposure. Therefore, understanding and monitoring vapor levels in the air should be part of any department's essential safety practice, in order to promote worker safety in the hospital.
Ethylene Oxide (EtO), Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2), and Peracetic Acid (PAA) all have Occupational Exposure Limits (listed below), and are effective biocides and/or biocidal sterilants. They are used because they effectively kill bacteria and microbes, but these chemicals pose a risk to those that work with these chemicals daily. A biocide or sterilant is used to destroy all life (bacteria) on the instruments, which is a scary thought for the people working around them every day. The best way to ensure the safety of the sterile department staff is to ensure harmful vapors in the air stay below national exposure guidelines with continuous monitoring.
Learn more about sterilants/biocides from one of our blogs here.
Occupational Exposure Limits for Ethylene Oxide, Hydrogen Peroxide and Peracetic Acid
||Ethylene Oxide||Hydrogen Peroxide||Peracetic Acid*|
OSHA PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit)
||1.0 ppm||1.0 ppm||
|NIOSH IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health)
||800 ppm||75 ppm||
|American Conference of Governmental Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Values (TLV)
||1.0 ppm||1 ppm||0.4 ppm|
*Peracetic Acid OELs are in progress due to recent popularity of sterilizing with PAA
The way to make sure your ppm (parts per million) is below the standards is with ChemDAQ’s high tech gas monitoring equipment. Using the ChemDAQ Steri-Trac® continuous monitor will assure that your employees stay safe, and will help protect your employees from those sterilants by providing continuous gas monitoring. Our systems will go into alarm should the limits be exceeded, warning the employees in that area, keeping the safe. The Steri-Trac® continuous monitor also tracks and logs the data, which can then be saved and downloaded for future reference. The continuous monitoring system will give your employees peace of mind, keeping your employees motivated and happy, and will allow them to work at their best.
Adding continuous monitoring to your Quality Control (QC) program provides another layer of safety and validation. Just like equipment must be revalidated after an aborted cycle, monitoring the air allows for process and Quality Control. Having this additional layer of QC will keep your employees satisfied and safe.
Don't know what chemicals are used in your sterilizers or high-level disinfectant equipment?
Here is a quick, high-level guide with some of the most common brands and chemicals used in them.
|Company||Low-Temp Sterilizer||Chemical Biocide||Source Concentration (w/w)|
|Johnson & Johnson (ASP)||Sterrad||Hydrogen Peroxide||58-95%|
|Steris||Amsco Eagle 3017||Ethylene Oxide||100%|
|3M||Steri-vac 5XL. 8XL||Ethylene Oxide||100%|
|3M||Steri-vac GS Series||Ethylene Oxide||100%|
Something very important to note – many people believe the myth that the hydrogen peroxide used in low-temperature sterilizers is the same as the hydrogen peroxide you can get at the grocery store. Unfortunately, this is not true. The concentration in the sterilizers can go as high as 95% – much higher and more dangerous than the hydrogen peroxide from the grocery store (~3%).
High-Level Disinfection Equipment Brands and Chemicals
|Company||High-Level Disinfection||Chemical Biocide||Source Concentration (w/w)|
|Steris||System 1e||Peracetic Acid||35.50%|