Sterilization Process Using an eto Sterilizer
by: dewi susanti
An eto sterilizer is mainly used in sterilizing pharmaceutical and medical products that can’t withstand a normal (high temperature) steam sterilization. Devices sterilized using this sterilizer includes plastic packaging used in hospitals and electronic medical equipments among other equipments. The sterilization process in an Ethylene Oxide (ETO) sterilizer is different from the sterilization process in the common heat sterilizers. Due to this difference, the processes are not carried out in a similar way and follow different procedures. Heat used in an Ethylene Oxide sterilizer is way below that used in a normal heat sterilizer. In the former, the highest temperatures range at about 10.2 Degrees Celsius while in the former temperatures can go up to over 250 Degrees Celsius.
How is sterilization undertaken in an eto sterilizer?
The main sterilizing agent used in an Ethylene Oxide sterilizer is the Ethylene Oxide gas. The gas is infiltrated through packages and products (medical equipments) to kill micro-organisms. In most cases, the gas is used in killing micro-organisms that are left on medical products after production and even packaging. The gas is mixed with natural air at a ratio of 1:3 so as to obtain an explosive mixture. EtO gas boils at around 10.73 Degrees Celsius (at normal atmospheric pressure). In most instances, the gas is mixed sparingly with carbon dioxide or nitrogen gas so as to achieve the explosive mixture. Due to the explosiveness of the mixture, ATEX (Intrinsic Safe Material) zoning is put in place for purposes of guaranteeing the security of the personnel undertaking the process. In addition to this, the zoning is also done to secure the process itself.
Due to the hazardous effects of EtO gas on human beings, the safety of personnel and the process in general should be prioritized on. Gas detectors should be set in facilities housing an eto sterilizer so as to alarm personnel on any gas leak. Another important safety measure that should be prioritized on is the setting up of audio visual alarm systems. What’s more important about the process is that the system should inform personnel on sterilization cells that contain EtO.
After the sterilization process is over, the toxic gas should be removed from the lab and should be treated with the use of thermal burners. Alternatively, the gas can be oxidized so as to neutralize its harmful effects. Treatment of the gas is very important especially because it can easily cause fires in sterilization labs due to its explosive nature. Treatment of the gas aims at removing even the slightest traces of the explosive gas in the sterilization lab or in the atmosphere.
An eto sterilizer needs to be handled by professional personnel who understand how the sterilizer is operated. This is because wrong handling/poor operation of the sterilizer can result in far reaching consequences such as fires that may cause massive destruction to property or inflict serious injuries. The following aspects need to be put to consideration when handling this sterilizer:
· Accurate temperature control
· An efficiently working control system
· Accurate pressure & vacuum control
· Functional alarm systems
· Air tight conditions in the sterilizer
· Stage by stage displays