Published on 16th March 2011
Latest research into formaldehyde replacement bio-decontamination techniques is now available
Following a well-attended international scientific workshop held earlier this year, presentations, covering the regulatory climate around the use of formaldehyde and evaluations of alternative decontamination techniques, are now available online.
The EPIZONE workshop for formaldehyde replacement, co-sponsored by Bioquell and Tecnilab, was held in January at Central Veterinary Institute, Lelystad in the Netherlands. This event gathered together international key opinion leaders who discussed the use of various decontamination technologies which are seen as viable alternatives to traditional formaldehyde fumigation techniques.
In addition to the research data, a number of case studies are also available. The presentations can be found on the EPIZONE website.
Speaking about the event, Giles Snare, head of life sciences at Bioquell, said “It is important that alternatives to formaldehyde bio-decontamination are explored so that this hazardous chemical can be phased out. Currently formaldehyde (methanal) vaporisation systems are the most common method of bio-decontamination used by many laboratories across the world but there have been several studies to show the serious carcinogenic effects of using this active agent.”
Formaldehyde is an effective disinfectant as it kills most bacteria and fungi (including their spores). However as far back as 1987, the U.S. EPA classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen and after more studies the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in 1995, also classified it as a probable human carcinogen. Further information and evaluation of all known data led the IARC to reclassify formaldehyde as a ‘known human carcinogen’1 associated with nasal sinus cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer. Recent studies have also shown a positive correlation between exposure to formaldehyde and the development of leukaemia, particularly myeloid leukaemia2.
The use of formaldehyde as a bio-decontamination agent in laboratories is a potential significant risk to the long term health of those who are in direct contact during the process. It is also a risk to those who have to clean the residues of para-formaldehyde which are often left following the formaldehyde bio-decontamination process. These para-formaldehyde residues form slowly in aqueous formaldehyde solutions as a white precipitate.
John Edwards, Bioquell’s EU sales manager who also attended the event commented, “It is widely accepted that there is a low level of process control and monitoring during the formaldehyde bio-decontamination process as it based on manual cleaning protocols, compounding safety concerns with the proven health risk. As a result many commercial organisations have assessed the risk of this process and have converted to alternative, less hazardous, but effective bio-decontamination agents, such as hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV). This is seen most evidently in Europe where a significant move away from formaldehyde has been observed.”
For access to the latest presentations please visit the EPIZONE website via the link http://bit.ly/hs3rhZ.
1. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Volume 88 (2006) Formaldehyde, 2-Butoxyethanol and 1-tert-Butoxypropan-2-ol, WHO Press, 2006( English )
2. Formaldehyde exposure and Leukaemia: A New Meta-Analysis and Potential Mechanisms, 681 (2-3), Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research, March-June 2009, pp. 150–168