Proper cleaning and disinfection of medical instruments is critical to prevent the spread of dangerous microorganisms. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts, spores and other micro-organisms can make patients and medical staff sick. Any equipment that has been used in contact with a patient, such as endoscopes, must be disinfected before reuse.
Standards for high-level disinfecting medical equipment have been set by organizations such as the CDC in the U.S. and the NEN in Europe. According to the CDC, to reduce the risk of infection to an acceptable level requires disinfection processes that kill all but 1 in 1,000,000 micro-organisms (log-6).
Problems with using chemicals for disinfection
Until recently the only way to disinfect equipment to this level required harsh chemicals, such as sodium dichloroisocyanurate, high concentration (70-90%) alcohol solutions, or hydrogen peroxide solutions.
Unfortunately, some of these chemicals can cause damage to equipment, health problems for medical staff, and environmental problems.[i]
Chemicals can harm medical personnel
Although medical staff are highly trained, chemical spills can happen and can be quite hazardous. For example, hydrogen peroxide can cause serious eye damage. Airborne chemicals also can cause asthma.[ii]
Chemicals can damage medical equipment
Disinfectant chemicals can damage delicate and expensive medical equipment. For example, hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid solutions can damage certain metals used in these instruments. Long-term use of some chemicals can damage the plastic coating of a flexible insertion tube.[iii]
Chemical disinfection is costly and wasteful
In the healthcare industry, chemical disinfection produces waste. The washing machines rely on chemicals in disposable single use containers which eventually end up in solid waste facilities. And the energy cost and CO2 generated to produce, transport, and then filter chemicals from wastewater is significant.[iiii]
All types of medical equipment must first undergo manual pre-cleaning. Next, the device is placed in a specialized washing machine. These machines use hot water and detergent, along with disinfecting chemicals and the process takes considerable time.
A single disinfection cycle with chemicals uses many gallons of clean water. And the total process (including pre-cleaning, washing, drying and transport) can take up to 4 hours – valuable time in which medical equipment cannot be used on other patients.
A more reliable, greener alternative
For a more sustainable – and reliable – disinfection option in healthcare, a UV disinfection device, such as the UV Smart D60, uses no chemicals. After manual pre-cleaning of visible debris, UV based technology will kill all organisms wherever the light touches the surface of a device.
UV disinfection only takes a few seconds’ worth of electrical power. This time savings also allows medical staff to work more efficiently.
In addition to time and energy savings, the cost per disinfection cycle of UV-C compared to chemical methods is lower because it doesn’t require gallons of water, chemicals, or single-use consumables. And it’s safer for the medical staff, too. Find out more by reading our article on How to minimize costs of ENT endoscopes.
A more sustainable healthcare industry needs sustainable medical devices, reusables instead of disposables, and lower water use. Choosing a disinfection device such as the UV Smart D60 is an important step towards making healthcare greener and more sustainable.