What is Peracetic Acid (PAA)?

Peracetic Acid is a disinfectant chemical used by hospitals and the food processing industry. It is very effective for killing microscopic organisms hiding in and on surfaces. Within minutes, it can wipe out bacteria, fungi, yeasts, spores and viruses.

Chemical Properties of Peracetic Acid

Combining hydrogen peroxide, acetic acid and water will produce Peracetic Acid. It is a colorless liquid, highly reactive and has a strong vinegar like odor that you can smell at very low levels. It's most effective at high concentration levels, which produces a gas vapor that is hazardous with acute exposure.

Dangers of Peracetic Acid

There are safety regulations in place to track recommended exposure limits for Peracetic Acid. It’s a toxic chemical and poses serious hazards to workers at high concentration levels. 

Health Risks

Exposure to Peracetic Acid can occur from inhalation or direct contact. Exceeding exposure limits causes:

  • Eye irritation, cornea burns and eye damage

  • Asthma, labored breathing, shortness of breath and excessive fluid buildup in the lungs

  • Nose and throat irritation and coughing

  • Skin irritation, redness and blisters

Chemical burn to hand due to direct contact to peracetic acid

Overexposure to peracetic acid vapor can cause serious eye irritation

Overexposure to peracetic acid vapor can cause nose irritation and bleeding

Overexposure to peracetic acid vapor can cause lung complications

Olfactory Fatigue

What is olfactory fatigue? It's a dangerous condition that occurs when you work around Peracetic Acid all the time and can no longer smell it. It's impossible to know if your exposure level is safe without monitoring equipment.

Highly Reactive

At concentrations of 15% or higher, the chemical is highly reactive. Without proper training and safety precautions in place, there is a risk of fire and explosion hazards.

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Common Applications for Peracetic Acid in the Workplace

The main chemical used in protein processing is Peracetic Acid

Proteins Processing

Peracetic Acid disinfection is used in poultry and meat processing. The chemical is distributed to various areas of the processing plant to kill bacteria and meet USDA food safety guidelines. 

Peracetic Acid is the chemical of choice in endoscopy cleaning

Sterilizing Medical Instruments

Hospitals rely on Peracetic Acid sterilization for medical instruments. This is an essential task for patient safety and requires workers to use high concentrations in sterilization equipment. 

Food processing and produce use peracetic acid to sterilize their products

Disinfecting Produce

The chemical is applied directly to fresh fruits and vegetables to kill bacteria. Peracetic Acid is the ideal disinfectant as it is very reactive, quickly decomposes and does not leave behind any harmful residues. 

Aseptic packaging uses peracetic acid to sanitize their bottles

Packaging Food & Beverages

Peracetic Acid helps extend the shelf life of food and beverages. The chemical is used in a specialized manufacturing process where food is sterilized then inserted into a can or plastic container. 

Is your work environment Safe? How do you know? 

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