Why Should Ethylene Oxide Be Monitored?
Ethylene oxide is found in the sterile processing department (SPD) of hospitals and other health care facilities. The SPD is where medical devices and surgical instruments are cleaned and sterilized. Medical facilities must comply with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) codes that regulate the level of this chemical to which workers can be exposed as well as the signage required to indicate the presence of ethylene oxide.
What Health Issues Does Ethylene Oxide Pose?
Exposure to airborne ethylene oxide can cause difficulty breathing, eye pain and blurred vision, sore throat, dizziness, headache, convulsions, blisters, coughing, and nausea and vomiting. Ethylene oxide is a carcinogen that can cause leukemia and other cancers. It has been linked to spontaneous abortion, genetic damage, nerve damage, muscle weakness, peripheral paralysis, and impaired thinking and memory. In liquid form, prolonged exposure can cause severe skin irritation. *
Testing and Mitigation of Exposure Levels
Our goal is to ensure that employees’ exposure is well below OSHA’s permissible exposure limits (PEL). An Evergreen tech performs an on-site evaluation to test the air for levels of ethylene oxide. Plus, the tech also checks for leaks and ventilation problems to further reduce the chances of dangerous chemical exposure.
If we find a reparable problem, we help you fix it. And, of course, we then conduct additional monitoring to make sure that levels are in compliance after mitigation and/or repair, and perform periodic testing to ensure that a compliant level is maintained.
As always, we assist our customers in all aspects of the chemical monitoring and exposure mitigation process. We help you meet all applicable codes, which reassures your employees that you care about their well-being by keeping them safe at work.
How Can You Lower Excessive Exposure Levels?
What can you do if your levels exceed the standards? Here are a few recommended actions to lower employee exposure to excessive levels of ethylene oxide: *
- Use engineering controls and work practices to limit exposure.
- Develop and implement a written compliance program.
- Disseminate information and conduct employee training.
- Establish a medical surveillance program for employees.
- Attach warning labels to all containers whose contents can cause excessive exposure.
- Purchase and maintain personal protective equipment such as respirators, and make sure employees use them.
* SOURCE: https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/ethylene-oxide-factsheet.pdf