Sterilisation is vitally important in healthcare sectors. Chemical sterilants and especially gas sterilants are the most commonly recommended methods for sterilising medical devices. We expose the commonly perceived sterilisation myths that endoscopy units should be aware of…
Myth 1: If a sterilant is good for the environment, it must be safe for me.
Hydrogen peroxide and ozone do not last long in the environment and so they are generally not considered to be environmentally harmful. Therefore the aggressiveness of ozone and hydrogen peroxide make them efficient sterilants, and severe irritants to anyone exposed to them.
Myth 2: Hydrogen peroxide and ozone are much safer than EtO.
Sterilant chemicals are designed to kill all life, whether within or without the steriliser and therefore chemicals that are used in a steriliser will cause harm to humans who are exposed to them.
Myth 3: Sterilisers never leak.
While everyone may wish this myth were true, unfortunately the evidence suggests it is not. Again, the simplest approach is to consider the overall risk as comprising the harm caused by failure and the risk of the failure.
Myth 4: There are no workplace regulations for hydrogen peroxide or ozone.
Many people believe incorrectly that there are no regulations for hydrogen peroxide or ozone. In 1974, the Health and Safety at Work Act was passed which, among other things, created the EH40 guidelines, authorised it to regulate workplace safety regulations, and imposed a legal duty on employers to provide a safe workplace.
Myth 5: Small ozone leaks are OK because ozone freshens the air.
Ozone is as strong oxidant and will destroy many odour causing chemicals and serves as a commercial disinfectant. However, applications should only use ozone under conditions where personal exposure is avoided. The same strongly oxidising properties of ozone that make it useful as a bleaching agent and sterilant, make ozone hazardous to human health.
Myth 6: I don’t need a sterilant gas monitor because I will smell the gas if it leaks.
Odour cannot be used to detect the presence of ethylene oxide leaks. Even at 100 percent hydrogen peroxide is reported to have almost no odour.