CHLORINE DIOXIDE STERILIZATION: A GREEN, ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS OPTION
Doing business in an environmentally friendly way is important to our company, our community, our customers and the world. In sterilization, chlorine dioxide presents a thoughtful choice for a safer and cleaner environment with many types of medical devices.
The environmental challenge
Renewed focus on chlorine dioxide as a sterilization method stems from both business and regulatory body concerns. Ethylene oxide (EO), a common sterilization agent for medical devices, poses little threat to the environment when used properly. But if something does go awry, EO can create significant environmental and health problems.
The concerns have prompted the closure of several major sterilization facilities around the country since 2019, primarily because they could not meet emission standards. Concerned about the future availability of sterile medical devices, and the potential for device shortages that might impact patient care, the FDA launched an Innovation Challenge to encourage companies to find ways to reduce EO emissions and explore alternative technologies for sterilization.
Chlorine dioxide (CD) is one of those alternative technologies; in fact, it is the key environmentally friendly one. Recognized as a disinfectant since the early 1900s, CD in liquid form has been safely used to disinfect drinking water since the 1920s. In fact, 5% of U.S. water systems currently use it to treat potable water. CD is also cleared by the FDA to wash and sanitize poultry products, fruits and vegetables. It is allowable for use on organic foods.
In its gaseous form, CD is a yellow-green color. The ability to accurately measure and monitor it in real time with photometric devices enables greater safety through close management during sterilization.
CD gas has a discernible odor – similar to chlorine and nitric acid – at safe levels. That means you’ll be able to smell the gas before it reaches unsafe concentrations, allowing you time to shut down the system and address the situation safely. Other sterilizing agents can not be smelled until exposure in high concentrations occurs. The current OSHA standard for CD gas is 0.1 part per million parts of air over an eight-hour period.
And since it is a true gas, CD’s distribution attributes are excellent, meaning it will naturally fill any space evenly and completely. It is able to penetrate surfaces and organic matter, and as it will not condense on surfaces or absorb readily into materials, it’s quickly aerated.
“Green” benefits of CD sterilization
For sterilization of medical devices, CD has many additional “green” attributes. Importantly, it is non-cancerogenic. In most situations, it can be exhausted directly to the environment; no scrubbing with hazardous chemicals needed. It is non-flammable and non-explosive, and is a registered sterilant with the EPA.
The quick-aeration feature of CD means fast aeration of the sterilization chamber and exposed devices. The fact that it does not absorb readily into materials significantly reduces the cycle time of the sterilization process. Plus, residues on products and packaging are far below detectable levels. It’s possible to handle sterilized products and packaging immediately after the sterilization cycle.
- Low-temperature (able to sterilize at room temperatures)
- No exposure to excessive heat, moisture or radiation
- No post-treatment residuals
- Compatible with nearly all materials, including plastic components and electronics
CD is an environmentally safe alternative for sterilizing medical devices. Efficient and effective, it is today’s clean, green sterilization method.