Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Peracetic Acid Occupational Exposure Levels

Peracetic acid (PAA) is gaining wide acceptance as a disinfectant and sterilant in many industries including healthcare, food processing (aseptic packaging, bottling, dairy and meat) and water treatment. PAA acid is a relatively simple chemical formed as an equilibrium component in a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid; with excellent disinfection properties and additionally PAA is environmentally benign since it rapidly breaks down to harmless product (acetic acid and water).

Any broad spectrum disinfectant or sterilant is potentially hazardous to people exposed to it and the widespread use of PAA has meant that there is the potential for workplace exposure. While employers have a duty to ensure a safe workplace [OSH Act (1970) sec. 5], it has been difficult to determine what level of PAA exposure is safe since there is no OSHA permissible exposure limit for PAA and little other guidance.

Guidance is now available: The EPA published acute exposure guidelines for PAA in 2010, available at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/aegl/pubs/results80.htm. In addition, the ACGIH has recently published a notice of intended change to introduce a short term exposure limit (STEL) of 0.2 ppm for PAA to The notice is available from the ACGIH website at http://www.acgih.org/store/ProductDetail.cfm?id=2199 and marks a significant improvement in the hazard assessment information available to employers using PAA.

Knowing the exposure limit is only helpful if the actual exposure can be measured; and the ChemDAQ offers continuous monitors for PAA, designed to operate with sufficient resolution to provide protection at these low levels. Details of the monitors and the health effects of exposure to PAA are available on the ChemDAQ website http://www.chemdaq.com/gases/Peracetic_Acid.html. Contact ChemDAQ for more information at info@chemdaq.com.