Ethylene Oxide Sterilization

Science and technology have allowed for many advances in the medical field that ensure the most proper and safest treatment of patients in need. The importance of sterilization in the medical industry is undeniable and ethylene oxide (also referred to as EO or EtO), has emerged as the sterilization method of choice for medical devices because of its advantages compared with other technologies and alternate methods of sterilization.


What is Ethylene Oxide?

Ethylene oxide is a gas used to sterilize various medical devices, from syringes to medical masks. It is highly effective and commonly used because unlike other forms of sterilization, EO preserves the integrity of medical equipment and doesn’t degrade it. Since many medical devices are heat and moisture sensitive, ethylene oxide is optimal over steam and gamma sterilization.

While ethylene oxide is very effective in its use, it is imperative that it is handled safely in all settings since this gas is flammable and carcinogenic. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have strict regulations for both the handling/exposure of this chemical agent within plants and the emitting of residual exhaust into the atmosphere. Operators who deal with this process, like contract sterilizers and medical facilities, must have control systems in place to abide by these regulations and limit the exposure to this chemical agent on all fronts.


Ethylene Oxide Sterilization Treatment | What Systems Treat Ethylene Oxide?

Pollution Systems is experienced in the engineering and manufacturing of air control systems that treat ethylene oxide pollution. Working with top contract sterilizers, we have determined that systems like Catalytic Oxidizers are highly effective treatment options for low concentrations of this chemical agent. This equipment is most appropriate in process applications where particulate and catalyst poisons are not present and with concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) below 25% LEL. The benefit of using a catalyst is that oxidation of the ethylene oxide occurs at a much lower temperature than required using temperature alone. If even greater energy savings are desired, a Recuperative Catalytic Oxidizer -which works in conjunction with a heat exchanger-can ensure that little energy is lost.

SEE OUR CUT SHEET for an Ethylene Oxide Recuperative Catalytic Oxidizer HERE, to treat EtO Sterilization.

For process streams with high concentrations of ethylene oxide, incorporating a scrubber to the existing emission control system can facilitate safer treatment of the stream. A scrubber using sulfuric acid stabilizes the ethylene oxide since the sulfuric acid acts as a catalyst and breaks down the EO converting it to ethylene glycol. This compound is less volatile and safer for handling than ethylene oxide. Ethylene glycol is ultimately collected and recycled.  It can also be used as a building block for other products. Any low-level EO residue not converted during the scrubbing process may be further destroyed by sending it through a Catalytic/Recuperative Catalytic Oxidizer prior to emission. 

Enclosed flares have also been used to effectively treat process streams with high EO concentrations. Unfortunately, multiple sterilization facility fires and events in the early 2000s have shown that using this method alone is dangerous.  However, pre-treatment of a stream containing ethylene oxide with a scrubber is able to reduce the explosivity of the stream and allow further treatment with an oxidizer.

Important considerations for ethylene oxide control systems include modern automated controls, interlocks and safety (e.g. detonation arrestors) which enable the safest treatment of ethylene oxide.


Solving Your Ethylene Oxide Treatment Challenge

As regulations tighten in regards to ethylene oxide, it is a priority for operators to ensure that their plants are within compliance and aren’t harming their surrounding communities. Pollution Systems helps the Sterilization Industry by providing expertise, guidance and technical innovation when it comes to controlling and abating ethylene oxide emissions. Contact us today to discuss how we can help treat your ethylene oxide emissions and help you reduce your impact on the environment. 


Ethylene Oxide | EO Catalytic Oxidizer Repairs

If you operate an existing EtO Treatment System but need technical repairs or upgrades, we can also assist you. Our dedicated technical services division, PolSys Services, provides EO Catalytic /Recuperative Catalytic Oxidizer Repair support and can upgrade any system make and model, including Donaldson Catalytic Oxidizers. 

Contact us today to request a quote from Pollution Systems
or call us at 713-574-6661