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Kimberly Osborne
August 22, 2017

Does your disinfectant suffer from Safety Indifference Syndrome?

Working in the veterinary field, when it comes to safety, I would always think of proper restraint of the animal, wearing x-ray gowns, proper disposal of sharps, you get my drift. I wouldn’t really think about the disinfectant I was using and if it was safe to use for myself or my patients. We know that chemical disinfectants are widely used in infection prevention, as such, our reliance on them is imperative. When choosing a disinfectant, it seems the focus revolves around what the disinfectant kills and also the cost, forgetting about other criteria such as the level of safety. Research has indicated that disinfectant products have the potential to contribute to respiratory hazards including the onset of asthma or exacerbation of existing asthma. Additionally, disinfectants have been associated with acute illness reports among workers, primarily affecting the eyes and skin. A 2010 report by the CDC highlighted that the most common active ingredients responsible for illnesses were Quaternary ammonium compounds (38%), glutaraldehyde (25%), and sodium hypochlorite (18%). The majority of the types of injuries associated with the use of disinfectants were: 222 eye injuries, 130 neurologic injuries (headaches), and 121 respiratory injuries. These occupational human health hazards not only have negative physical implications, but also negative economic impacts both directly and indirectly. And it probably comes as no surprise that disinfectants which are perceived as toxic by staff are less likely to be used correctly, reducing user compliance and increasing the risk of pathogen transmission.


Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment, for the protection of the staff and also the animals. That being said, two of the most important criteria when choosing a disinfectant for your facility should be germicidal efficacy and safety, of equal measure. Unfortunately, most disinfectants have to compromise between safety and efficacy with the focus being more on what the product can kill. This compromise is often made as it is a common belief that due to their toxicity to microorganisms, disinfectants are also toxic to human health resulting in user apprehension and decreased compliance.


Safety within a veterinary facility should be a top priority because we have humans and animals to worry about. The fact that humans can have respiratory issues is one thing, animals have a sense of smell far superior than us; can you imagine what they must be going through? We need to make sure that when choosing a disinfectant, it has to be safe for both the human and the animal, while remaining effective. From a practice owner point of view, choosing a disinfectant that follows OSHA compliance, is not classified under GHS criteria, and requires minimal or no PPE is the best route to follow to avoid workplace hazards.


So how do you go about identifying a safe disinfectant? The best way to identify a disinfectant’s safety profile is by reading the products Safety Data Sheet (SDS), which is a summary document that provides information about the hazards of a product and advice about safety precautions. On the SDS, sections 2 and 11 should be reviewed to identify product hazards and toxicological data. Pay special attention to section 2 which is an overview of the disinfectants hazards identification. This section will tell you the GHS classification, signal words, hazard pictograms and precautionary statements. Ideally, you do not want your disinfectant to be classified by GHS and have no hazard pictograms or hazard statements. Furthermore, section 11 will provide you the toxicity results of the disinfectant. All disinfectant manufacturers must have their products tested for oral, dermal, and inhalation toxicity by a third party laboratory.


So, you are probably wondering: Is it possible to have a disinfectant that is both effective and safe? The answer is YES! Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide® (AHP®) based disinfectants are based on chemical synergies. What this means is that instead of adding more chemicals to make our disinfectants more effective against germs, we play with the formula until we get a new synergy. This results in enhanced formulas that offer a faster, and better efficacy without compromising user safety. AHP® is designed to be non-toxic, non-irritating, and non-sensitizing. At the in-use dilution, AHP® is not classified under GHS, has no associated hazard pictograms, and no hazard statements. Furthermore, AHP® does not utilize any ingredients that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, or have reproductive toxicity, giving user’s confidence that they won’t be harmed by their disinfectant if used according to the label directions.


There is no need to compromise any longer – Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide® based disinfectants have accomplished the balance between safety and efficacy – creating a better environment for staff, and of course our furry (or non-furry) patients.


I hope this will lead you to evaluate your current disinfectant choice within your practice and review with your team the pros and cons. Please check out the Safety Checklist to help in this process.


Paw you later! Kim

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