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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 15:26 GMT
Withdrawl of disinfectant hit by safety fears
The product is used to disinfect fragile surgical instruments
The product is used to disinfect fragile surgical instruments
A commonly used disinfectant in the NHS, which has been the subject of reports of skin problems and asthma, is being withdrawn from use.

Cidex, made by Johnson and Johnson, is to be taken off the UK market by May 1 this year.

Too many nurses have been lost to the NHS because of exposure to glutaraldehyde

Jon Richards
Cidex is one of the brand names for Glutaraldehyde, a toxic colourless, oily liquid also available as an aqueous solution.

Glutaraldehyde is harmful if inhaled or swallowed and irritating to eyes and respiratory tract. It can also cause severe damage to the skin and eyes.

But the company say their product is safe, and is simply being replaced with a more effective product.

Exposure limits

Cidex is used by most NHS hospitals to kill viruses on surgical instruments which are too fragile to be heat-treated.

It is used in decontamination units throughout the country and is the most commonly used disinfectant in endoscopy departments.

But the UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) raised concerns over the use of the disinfectant after the reports of health problems from staff exposed to it during the decontamination process.

In 1999, the HSE published guidance limiting how much Glutaraldehyde workers should be exposed to.

The chemical hit the headlines 14 months ago when thousands of people were called for medical tests after possible exposure to a faulty batch.

'Good for nurses'

Jon Richards, of the health workers union Unison said the move was good news for nurses' health.

He said: "Too many nurses have been lost to the NHS and many valuable years of experience wasted, because of exposure to glutaraldehyde.

"There is no `safe' level of exposure and no place for it in hospitals today.

"It is well known that it can irritate the skin, eyes, throat and lungs. I am delighted to hear that it will be withdrawn from hospitals."

He said Unison had campaigned for years to get the substance banned.

"We have taken many claims for compensation for nurses who have had their careers needlessly cut short and their lives blighted by asthma and other health problems, through working with glutaraldehyde in operating theatres."

David Harris, European Regulatory and Quality Systems Director for Johnson&Johnson Wound Management Worldwide said: "Cidex Activated Gluteraldehyde Solution has been and continues to be used safely and effectively by hospitals around the world as a disinfecting and sterilising solution for more than 30 years.

"As with all sterilants and disinfectants, Cidex must be handled with care and certain precautions against exposure observed."

He added that a faster and more effective product - Cidex OPA High Level Disinfectant Solution - was being introduced to the UK market.

"The transition to Cidex OPA will be taking place on a gradual basis this year. The active ingredient, ortho-phthaldehyde, has a very low vapor threshold and inhalation potential is minimal."

See also:

21 Jan 02 | Health
Controlling hospital infection
22 Jan 02 | Scotland
Hospital virus' impact spreads
05 Apr 00 | Health
Clampdown on hospital hygiene
23 Feb 00 | Health
Hospital fabrics harbour bugs
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