The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) has a number of workshops on ethylene oxide sterilization lined up for 2009.   This will be kicked off with a webinar series on March 4th and 5th.  This course can be taken by participants at home or in the office – wherever an internet connection and phone line are available.  The lesson plan will focus on EO sterilization of health care products based on current industry standards for equipment validation and safety.  Participants will be able to watch the power point presentation online.  The audio will be provided via phone to ensure clarity and to allow class members to ask questions.  This program is designed to be low cost/high value since any number of staff members can participate as a group for one flat fee.

For those who like a more hands on approach, the next AAMI EO Sterilization for Medical Devices workshop will be held in Arlington, VA April 15-17th.  This course is designed for technicians who are already familiar with the basics and want to add to their knowledge.  The program will cover troubleshooting, upgrading or moving equipment, and optimizing sterilization.  Lectures will be interspersed with realistic application scenarios to fully involve participants in the learning process.

As a third option, organizations can also choose in-house training.  This type of program is recommended for groups of 20+ employees who need to be familiarized with new equipment or protocols.  AAMI registration fees for large groups is advertised as offering steep discounts – up to 70% off public seminar pricing.  The problem solving and examples used in these private classes can be specifically tailored to address your company’s needs.

EO Hazards – Why Training is Important

Ethylene oxide is a highly reactive chemical that is flammable/explosive when mixed with oxygen.  It is also considered hazardous to human health in other ways.  OSHA lists a number of side effects that can be caused by acute exposure to this gas.  These include lung injury, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Chronic exposure may lead to cancer, neurotoxicity, and genetic damage.  Consequently, the CDC recommends evacuation of all personnel expect for properly equipped clean up crews in the event of a leak or spill.

This highly toxic sterilant is used because of its effectiveness in killing pathogens at low temperatures.  Other chemicals including hypochlorite, ozone, formaldehyde, and peracetic acid have been tested for this type of process.  In general, they either demonstrate limited effectiveness or pose their own serious health risks.  Some safer alternatives for surface disinfection applications are currently on the market.  These are not a complete replacement for sterilization, but are suitable for some purposes.

Sterilizers that use pressurized steam and ethylene oxide are designed with a number of built in fail-safes.  However, human error is always a possibility.  Common causes of unnecessary exposure to EO include inadequate ventilation, poorly designed facilities, and lack of proper training.  Investing in appropriate education allows personnel to avoid accidents.  Replacing worn or outdated equipment is another important step toward increasing workplace safety.  If you believe it is time to upgrade to a new unit for any of your sterilization needs, our free report can help you make the right decision.