PAA Health Risks
Peracetic Acid or Peroxyacetic Acid is a strong oxidizer useful for high level disinfection and sterilization. Hospitals and Food Handling / Food Processing industries commonly use Peracetic or Peroxyacetic acid, in concentrations that can be harmful to workers if they are exposed.
Peracetic Acid is a primary irritant6, known tumorigen7 and possible animal carcinogen8. Risks of exposure include:
- Severe irritation and burning of the skin and eyes leading to eye damage, irritation of the nose and throat, irritation of the lungs causing coughing, and / or shortness of breath.9
- Higher exposures can cause pulmonary edema, liver and kidney affects.10
- Epigastric pain which may be associated with nausea and vomiting, gastric hemorrhage, ulceration of membranes and tissues, circulatory collapse with clammy skin, weak and rapid pulse, shallow respiration, and scanty urine.11
- Late esophageal, gastric, and pyloric strictures and stenoses which may not appear until months or years later.12
- Permanent scarring of the cornea, skin, and oropharynx.13
- Uncorrected circulatory collapse could lead to renal failure and ischemic lesions in liver and heart.14
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued Acute Exposure Guidelines (AEGL) for Peractetic Acid.
According to the EPA, AEGLs represent threshold exposure limits for the general public and are applicable to emergency exposure periods ranging from 10 minutes to 8 hours. The three levels; AEGL-1, AEGL-2 and AEGL-3; are distinguished by varying degrees of the severity of toxic effects. The three AEGLs are defined as follows:
- AEGL-1 is the airborne concentration of a substance above which it is predicted that the general population, including susceptible individuals, could experience notable discomfort, irritation, or certain asymptomatic nonsensory effects. However, the effects are not disabling and are transient and reversible upon cessation of exposure.
- AEGL-2 is the airborne concentration of a substance above which it is predicted that the general population, including susceptible individuals, could experience irreversible or other serious, long-lasting adverse health effects or an impaired ability to escape.
- AEGL-3 is the airborne concentration of a substance above which it is predicted that the general population, including susceptible individuals, could experience life-threatening health effects or death.
As of June 2008, Proposed AEGL Values for Peracetic acid [mg/m3 (ppm)]
|AEGL 1 (Non Disabling)||0.52 mg/m3(0.17 ppm)||0.52 mg/m3(0.17 ppm)||0.52 mg/m3(0.17 ppm)||0.52 mg/m3(0.17 ppm)||0.52 mg/m3(0.17 ppm)||Threshold for irritation (Fraser & Thorbinson 1986; McDonagh 1997)|
|AEGL 2 (Disabling)||1.6 mg/m3(0.5 ppm)||1.6 mg/m3(0.5 ppm)||1.6 mg/m3(0.5 ppm)||1.6 mg/m3(0.5 ppm)||1.6 mg/m3(0.5 ppm)||Mild Irritation (Fraser & Thorbinson 1986)|
|AEGL 3 (Lethal)||60 mg/m3||30 mg/m3||15 mg/m3||6.3 mg/m3||4.1 mg/m3||Highest concentration causing no deaths (Janssen 1989)|
OSHA and ACGIH regulate the exposure limits for Hydrogen Peroxide and Acetic Acid, the main ingredients of Peracetic Acid.For Hydrogen Peroxide, the OSHA exposure limit is a PEL of 1 ppm and ACGIH has established a TWA of 1 ppm
For Acetic Acid, the OSHA exposure limit is a PEL of 10 ppm and ACGIH has established an 8 hr TWA TLV of 10 ppm and a STEL of 15 ppm.
The health affects from exposure to Peracetic Acid are known. The EPA has established exposure limits based on the toxicity to humans and the OSHA / ACGIH have established exposure limits for the 2 main ingredients (Hydrogen Peroxide3 and Acetic Acid4,5).
A dedicated storage cabinet for Peracetic / Peroxyacetic Acid can help protect employees from the acute and chronic health effects by providing a bunded area to contain any spills and by removing the airborne PAA, emitted from the vented containers or a spill, before the air is circulated into the working environment. In addition any spill is communicated to the staff by visual and audible alarms, alerting them to adorn PPE before opening the cabinet providing proactive protection. Many employers whose workers have experienced symptoms of exposure and expressed concern are looking for solutions. Correct storage along with a comprehensive education program and safe work practices are the best ways to assure worker safety and maximise productivity.
References: 1Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/oppt/aegl/pubs/results80.htm
8,9,10New Jersey Dept.of Health & Senior Svcs:http://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1482.pdf
11,12,13,14United States National Library of Medicine: Toxicology Data Network: http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi- bin/sis/htmlgen?HSDB (search for “Peracetic Acid” then click Peracetic Acid search result #1).