Exposure to VOCs in Hospitals
At this time of crisis, we need to be protecting those keeping us safe. Hospitals are clean, sterile environments, but very little is known about the chemical condition of indoor air in hospitals.
Doctors, nurses, as well as all the other healthcare workers and patients may be exposed to a wide range of chemicals emitted from various sources, such as disinfectants (ethylene oxide, glutaraldehyde, formaldehyde, alcohols) and anesthetic gases, (isoflurane and sevoflurane).
Other compounds that have also been identified in hospitals are aldehydes (formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde), aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene and dimethylbenzene), alcohols and oxides.
The use of alcohol-based hand rubs are highly recommended for hand hygiene to reduce hospital-acquired infections. Most commercially available contain 70% by weight of ethanol and isopropanol during hygienic hand disinfection, users would be exposed, for short periods, to a sudden change in ethanol concentrations from 0 to 14.3 mg/L.
Reducing VOC Build-Ups
Although many airborne contaminants can be removed using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration, this method alone will not remove VOCs.
Limitation and control of VOC build-up in a hospital is the most effective way of ensuring that our dedicated healthcare works are patients have limited exposure to these compounds.
- Double-door gasketed windows restrict air passage between rooms, preventing the passage of VOCs.
- Avoid wood, polished or painted furniture. Steel furniture can be washed and outgassed, resulting in a low VOC concentration to be released.
- Plastic equipment, such as petri-dishes and pipettes, should be opened beforehand in a separate room to allow it to vent and outgas.
- Using VOC-free paints and cleaning products that do not contain ethanol help limit VOC exposure.
- Limiting the use of cosmetics, perfumes, and smoking of all staff reduces VOC exposure.
VOC Detection Methods
There are many tools available for the detection of VOCs. A commonly used, proven method which rapidly detects a wide range of VOCs over the concentrations of interest is photoionization detection (PID). The ability of PID to measure low levels of many VOCs makes it a vital tool in any clinical sterile setting. A PID’s sensitivity detects parts per billion (ppb) levels of VOCs that can be toxic but are not able to be removed using standard high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filtration methods.
It has been found that a portable or handheld PID instrument is highly effective at monitoring total VOC levels. ION Science’s Tiger and Cub are robust, reliable and easy to operate, providing assurance to those working in this environment that procedures are being performed in conditions of the highest standard and safety.
For more information on detecting VOCs in hospitals and other healthcare settings, contact the team at ION Science today.