NIOSH Updates Alert on Preventing Industrial Ethylene Oxide Explosions

NIOSH has published an alert about the explosions, injuries, and deaths that may occur at industrial ethylene oxide (EtO) sterilization facilities and repackaging plants. The alert--Preventing Worker Injuries and Deaths from Explosions in Industrial Ethylene Oxide Sterilization Facilities (Revised Edition)--recommends steps for preventing these explosions.

EtO is a flammable gas. During sterilization procedures, EtO can easily form explosive mixtures when it is vented to certain types of emission control devices such as catalytic oxidizers.

Between 1994 and 1998, EtO was involved in 10 explosions at industrial EtO sterilization facilities and EtO repackaging plants. One of these explosions caused one death and 59 injuries among workers. All of these incidents caused damage to the plants, most of which used catalytic oxidizers to control EtO emissions. To view the alert, visit http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2007-164/pdfs/2007-164.pdf.

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