Throughout the great Covid-19 “pandemic” there has been a massive emphasis on PCR testing for diagnosis of said virus, however, in recent times through some social media circles, it has came to attention that the cotton swabs used to gain samples in this testing procedure have been sterilized with an agent known as ethylene oxide. So what is this chemical and are there any dangers associated with ethylene oxide exposure, or is this a safe and effective chemical, that we should not be worried about being used to sterilize our medical equipment?
At a glance, the website cancer.gov, tells us that ethylene oxide is a flammable gas primarily used “to produce other chemicals, including antifreeze. In smaller amounts, ethylene oxide is used as a pesticide and a sterilizing agent. The ability of ethylene oxide to damage DNA makes it an effective sterilizing agent but also accounts for its cancer-causing activity.“
The CDC describes that ethylene oxide exposure “may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, drowsiness, weakness, exhaustion, eye and skin burns, frostbite and reproductive effects” to those workers that are exposed to it, in certain industries.
A document from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration USA) states that employee exposure to EtO is limited to 1 ppm (part per million) over an 8 hr time weighted average (TWA) and not exceed 5 ppm over a 15 min period or short-term exposure limit. This goes to show that only a miniscule amount of exposure can be harmful to the body.
I don’t know about you, but it totally sounds like a great chemical to use on medical equipment that is to be inserted into our bodies, right?
One of the biggest questions I had about the use of EtO on medical products, is to do with the amount of residual EtO that would be left on the product after sterilization and would it be enough to cause harm to somebody whom one of these products is used on?
As EtO is a volatile type gas, one would assume that this chemical would dissipate quite quickly and not leave trace elements on the product being sterilized, thus not be harmful to the recipient of the product.
The CDC states that “EtO is absorbed by many materials. For this reason, following sterilization the item must undergo aeration to remove residual EtO.” So how much aeration time is required for sufficient removal of residual EtO?
Considering that cotton is an extremely absorbent material, one would assume that aeration times for optimal removal of EtO from these products would be more than the 17 hrs required for PVC products. In fact, a document published on ScienceDirect suggests that “Cotton swabs should not be used until 5 weeks post EO.“
To view this particular ScienceDirect document requires purchasing of the file, something that The Red Door channel’s tight budget has not accounted for, therefore cannot confirm anymore details on this notion, at this point.
With the above information in mind, the big question is, considering that the majority of these testing kits are produced in China, can we assume that all of the billions of kits being produced and sterilized with EtO have been given the required time to remove all residual EtO from these products? It is highly unlikely that they are not and if they have not been, then this could potentially exposing millions of people daily to an unhealthy exposure level to EtO, possibly putting many at risk of illness or injury.