Safety

Tip of the week: Check out new EPA rule on ethylene oxide sterilizers

Hospital Safety Insider, March 24, 2010

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a new rule regarding ethylene oxide (EtO) sterilization in order to better protect healthcare workers involved in related activities.

As of March 1, a single chamber process (i.e., sterilization and aeration occurring in the same chamber) is required for EtO treatment of medical equipment.
 
This precaution is expected to lower indoor levels of EtO in hospitals, thereby reducing potential long-term health risks for workers, the EPA says.
 
Manufacturers of ETO have updated their product labels to state the new requirements. Hospitals safety professionals should review their current stock of EtO canisters to see if the labels bear the new statement, in which case hospitals can begin single chamber EtO sterilization immediately.
 
If canister labels do not bear the new manufacturer’s statement, hospitals can continue to sterilize medical equipment according to current EtO label instructions until the product bearing the old label language is depleted, the EPA says.
 
Hospitals may choose to send some of their medical equipment to contract facilities for sterilization to ease the transition to single chamber sterilization, as contract sites are not required to adopt the single chamber process.
 
Given the EPA’s connection with worker safety in this case, be cautious of OSHA implications as well.



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