Article Illustrates Poor Rinsability of Orthophthalaldehyde

A recently released study has illustrated that orthophthalaldehyde (a chemical commonly used for high level disinfectant of medical devices) “cannot be rinsed away from flexible endoscope material with any practical number of rinses with water or by drying overnight“. Orthophthalaldehyde (often referred to and listed in the study as ‘OPA’) is frequently used in automated washer disinfectors or soaking in wall mounted ventilation systems.

The study was designed to measure the rinsability and extraction of OPA from materials commonly found in endoscope insertion tubes. With soaking and rinsing designed to simulate use, the study found that “OPA adsorbs to the endoscope materials and cannot be rinsed away with any practical or even greatly excessive numbers of rinses with water“. Furthermore, the study also found that “the OPA [was] building up on the materials with each successive exposure“.

Orthophthalaldehyde has a wide variety of reported health and safety effects relating to exposure that are documented in numerous sources. These include:

  • Staining/discoloration upon contact with skin.
  • Potential for sensitisaton with repeated contact with skin.
  • Side effects on exposure to vapour, including coughing or wheezing, tightening and discomfort of the throat and chest, dry and tingling mouth and lips, stinging, difficulty breathing, headaches rashes and hives.
  • Serious mucosal injury to the lips, tongue, throat and oesophagus have been reported” with patients undergoing TOE procedures where OPA was used for high level disinfection.

If orthophthalaldehyde is improperly rinsed from the surface of an instrument, or – as this article suggests – is unable to be rinsed from the surface of an instrument, chemical exposure poses significant risks and acute side effects to staff and patients. OPA is classed as an irritant to skin, eyes, mucous membranes, and upper respiratory system.

To download a copy of the study, please click here.

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Quotations courtesy of:
Norman Miner, Valerie Harris, Natalie Lukomski, and Towanda Ebron (2012). Rinsability of Orthophthalaldehyde from Endoscopes. Diagnostic and Therapeutic Endoscopy (online).