If you work in a laboratory, you are likely familiar with glutaraldehyde. This chemical is often used for sterilization and decontamination purposes. In this blog post, we will discuss glutaraldehyde’s storage, use, and handling procedures.
What is Glutaraldehyde?
Glutaraldehyde is an organic compound used as a disinfectant, preservative and sterilant. It is a colourless liquid with a pungent odour and can be found in various forms, including powder, pellets, or solution. Glutaraldehyde is mostly used in hospitals and other medical settings to sterilize surgical instruments and equipment due to its potent antimicrobial properties. It has also been used in cosmetics and consumer products as a preservative and to prevent microbial growth. Glutaraldehyde is toxic and can cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritations, so it should be handled cautiously.
Transportation and Storage of Glutaraldehyde
- Transport glutaraldehyde solution only in closed containers with tight-fitting lids to minimize the potential for spills.
- Designate centralized locations for using glutaraldehyde to reduce the potential for spills during transport.
- Store unused glutaraldehyde solutions in tightly covered containers in a cool, secured, and properly labelled area.
- Dispose of outdated solutions properly.
Use and Handling Procedures
- When transferring glutaraldehyde to soaking basins and reservoirs, pour the liquid carefully and minimize splashing. Minimize dilution and agitation of glutaraldehyde solutions by carefully placing and removing instruments (NSW Health Department, 1993).
- When transferring and pouring glutaraldehyde solutions, use safety nozzles designed with a flexible spout and shut-off valve when available.
- Keep covers on soaking basins closed as much as possible and use appropriately sized, tight-fitting lids for containers. Use appropriately sized soaking basins to minimize surface area (e.g., narrow, deep container) (ANSI/AAMI, 1996).
- Keep automatic washer doors closed at all times except when necessary for loading or unloading of instruments to be disinfected.
- Rinse soaked instruments under gently running water as close as possible to the soaking tray or washer to contain the solution and minimize dripping on other surfaces (NSW Health Department, 1993).
- Use adequate ventilation if using compressed air to dry instruments rinsed with ethyl or isopropyl alcohol rinses.
- Use glutaraldehyde only in designated areas where traffic and ventilation can be controlled.
- Ensure that the ventilation system is operating before handling glutaraldehyde solutions.
- Close workroom doors to ensure the effectiveness of any available general dilution ventilation
- Do not store food, eat, drink, smoke, or apply cosmetics anywhere glutaraldehyde is stored or used.
- Clean up small glutaraldehyde spills and release them immediately. In the case of large spills or delayed response, employees should be encouraged to close doors, alert others and activate the HazMat spill, response team.
All employers with glutaraldehyde solutions or other hazardous chemicals in their healthcare facility must develop and implement a written hazard communication program that meets the requirements of OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200.
Such a program must include provisions for employee access to safety data sheets (SDSs), container labelling, and training for all potentially exposed individuals. Employees who use, handle, or may have potential exposure (e.g., accidental or possible) to glutaraldehyde solutions must be provided information and training before their initial work assignment.
Employees must be provided information regarding the requirements of the Hazard Communication standard, operations in their work area where glutaraldehyde solutions are present, and the location and availability of the written hazard communication program and safety data sheets (SDSs). Employee training must include, at a minimum, the following elements (29 CFR 1910.1200):
- methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of glutaraldehyde in the workplace
- the physical and health hazards of glutaraldehyde
- the measures employees can take to protect themselves, including specific procedures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure to glutaraldehyde, such as appropriate work practices, emergency procedures, and personal protective equipment
- an explanation of the safety data sheet, the employer’s labelling system, and how employees can obtain and use the appropriate hazard information