It’s been a busy week here at ChemDAQ. On June 15, our company applied for a Peracetic Acid (PAA) sensor to add to our Steri-Trac® gas monitoring system. To read the entire press release, visit: http://www.chemdaq.com/Press/paa_pending.html. Along with Ethylene Oxide, Hydrogen Peroxide, and Ozone (which we also produce sensors for), PAA can be a potentially dangerous chemical if employees are exposed to it in the workplace. While the effects of PAA are known to authorities, they are largely unknown by the general public. Here at ChemDAQ, we’ve done our due diligence to research exactly how harmful exposure to PAA vapor can be.
PAA is used in many different industries including waste water disinfection, aseptic food packaging, medical device sterilization and disinfection in hospitals to name a few. Production of our new sensor, therefore, will enable employers to protect a whole new category of workers from adverse health effects. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), PAA is a primary irritant as well as a known tumorigen and mutagen. The New Jersey Dept. of Health and Senior Services released a study in 2004 citing it as a possible animal carcinogen with ties to cancer of the lungs. The study also found that PAA is very irritating to the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. In fact, the vapor is so irritating that permanent scarring of the skin, cornea, and throat can occur. Higher exposures in the short term can also cause pulmonary edema as well as liver and kidney effects. The entire New Jersey report can be found at http://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1482.pdf.
According to the United States National Library of Medicine, exposure to PAA vapor can cause long term effects as well. Espophageal, gastric, and pyloric strictures and stenoses can occur, which may not appear until months or years later. In addition, exposure could cause circulatory collapse that, if not corrected, could lead to renal failure as well as lesions on the heart and liver.
Needless to say, PAA vapor can be quite harmful. As far as we know, the PAA sensor that we have just applied for a patent for is the first of its kind in the world. It will enable employers to continuously monitor for concentration of PAA in the air, allowing them to adhere to exposure guidelines that do exist. The EPA has issued Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs) for PAA and OSHA has Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) for Hydrogen Peroxide and Acetic Acid, the two main components of PAA. It is important to note that, according to the EPA, “although a contributing affect of acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide cannot be ruled out in the toxicity studies described in this report, it appears, however, that acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide are considerably less toxic than peracetic acid”.
Also mentioned in the EPA’s report is the Emergency Exposure Indices (EEI’s) developed by the Belgian PAA manufacturer, SOLVAY. The values correspond to the following:
SLV-EEI-3 (death/permanent incapacity) 50ppm: the threshold above which mortality and/or irreversible effects could be observed for an exposure of up to 60 minutes.
SLV-EEI-2 (disability) 3ppm: the threshold level above which intense lacrimation, extreme nose discomfort and transient incapacitation (inability of self protection but without residual consequences) could be observed for an exposure of up to 60 minutes.
SLV-EEI-1 (discomfort) 0.15ppm: the threshold level above which discomfort could be observed for an exposure of up to 8 hours per day.
Take it from the people who manufacture it – PAA can be quite hazardous, even in small amounts.
For further information, all of the EPA’s findings can be found at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/aegl/pubs/results80.htm.
If you or someone you know has had any adverse effects due to exposure to PAA vapor, we invite you to share them here.