eto pictureeto picture"Transitioning at Safe Substitutes for Ethylene Oxide as a Medical Sterilant of Devices and Supplies in Healthcare"

During the General Assembly in May 2019, the World Federation of Public Health Associations proposed the "Transitioning at Safe Substitutes for Ethylene Oxide as a Medical Sterilant of Devices and Supplies in Healthcare" Policy Resolution.

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a chemical used to sterilize medical equipment in hospitals, healthcare facilities, and industrial settings. It is also used to fumigate items that cannot be sterilized by steam such as spices, cosmetics, and plastic devices. While over 99 percent of industrial use of EtO is for closed reaction to less volatile, explosive, and toxic derivatives such as ethylene glycol, less than 1% is used in sterilizing processes designed to kill bacterial and other living organisms. It is estimated that 50% of medical supplies worldwide primarily composed of rubber, plastic, paper, cloth, or mixed material surgical trays are sterilized in this manner. Workers, including those in health care, engaged in these activities and the surrounding communities are exposed on a regular basis.

While not compromising patient care, the orderly substation of less hazardous substances for medical supply and device sterilization is recommended where feasible and the immediate control of releases utilizing best available technologies. This policy recommends the biomonitoring of workers, communities, different exposure recommendations, and safer substitutes to be used in the healthcare setting. The policy concludes with a number of Action Steps for WFPHA to take to regulate the sterilization of medical supplies.

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