Glutaraldehyde, also called as glutaric dialdehyde or Pentanedial, is a toxic chemical that is used as a cold sterilant to disinfect and clean heat-sensitive medical, surgical and dental equipment. It is found in products such as Cidex, Aldesen, Hospex and so on. It is a colorless, oily liquid with a pungent odor which exhibits low level hazards to human health.
The disinfectant properties of glutaraldehyde make it useful especially in medical applications where sanitation is a paramount concern. Many pieces of equipment are sensitive to steam and heat treatments that might otherwise be used for sterilization and call for the use of chemical disinfectants like glutaric dialdehyde. X-ray technicians also use it as a hardening agent for developing x-ray film.
Glutaraldehyde is used in a limited number of applications, rather than as a general disinfectant. Specific applications include use as a disinfecting agent for respiratory therapy equipment, bronchoscopes, physical therapy whirlpool tubs, surgical instruments, anesthesia equipment parts, x-ray tabletops, dialyzers, and dialysis treatment equipment.
The chemical is an irritant to the skin, eyes, lungs and throat. Irritants like glutaric dialdehyde cause dermatitis, rashes, swelling and constriction of airways to exposed tissue. The most commonly cited effect is asthma-like symptoms caused by glutaraldehyde vapor entering the lungs and throat. Irritation is usually caused by substances of 2% aqueous glutaraldehyde or stronger.
Glutaraldehyde is a sensitizer. This means some workers will become very sensitive to glutaric dialdehyde(CAS No. 111-30-8) and have strong reactions if they are exposed to even small amounts. Workers may get sudden asthma attacks with difficult breathing, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. Prolonged exposure can cause a skin allergy and chronic eczema, and afterwards, exposure to small amounts produces severe itching and skin rashes. It has been implicated as a possible cause of occupational asthma.
Always consult medical professionals or poison control if contact or inhalation occurs, but basic measures recommended by the MSDS for glutaraldehyde are as follows. For Inhalation, remove to fresh air. If not breathing, give artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, give oxygen. Get medical attention. If swallowed, immediately call a poison control center or doctor.