Ethylene oxide gas sterilisation is a low temperature process and it is the most popular method of chemical sterilisation.

It is used mainly to sterilise medical products and single use medical equipment. Pure ethylene oxide or its blends with carbon dioxide or with hydroxyl freons are used in the process of sterilisation.

Ethylene oxide in room temperature and under normal atmospheric pressure is a gas characterized by very good penetration features.

It well penetrates among others plastics, the main component of single use devices and of re-use devices which grow in popularity. Ethylene oxide is a very reactive chemical substance both as a liquid and as a gas. The effect of its reactivity are high biocide properties. Ethylene oxide has been used to sterilise medical equipment since second world war.

Ethylene oxide sterilisation applies to equipment compatible with the method, namely equipment which is heat sensitive and cannot be sterilised by steam. The compatibility here means the ability of the process of sterilisation to achieve the result without bad effect on the product. There is a number of medical equipment and instruments, packaging materials and clothing, surgical and scientific equipment which can be sterilised by ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide inhibits growth of microorganisms (disinfectant properties) and when present in high concentrations, can completely destroy them. Strong alkylating properties make ethylene oxide a universal poison for protoplasm: it causes clotting of proteins, deactivation of enzymes and other biologically important components of a living organism. Ethylene oxide acts more strongly against bacteria. Certain specified exposure to ethylene oxide means that the chance of finding a single bacterium is below 1 per million. Sterilisation process takes place in vacuum sterilisers or in pressure sterilisers.

Methods of chemical sterilisation regardless the substances used are connected with numerous hazards. Ethylene oxide is a carcinogenic, mutagenic substance and its use in the sterilisation of medical equipment is strictly regulated. Consequently, the safety regulations and process procedures must be followed.

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