Ethylene oxide gas has been used as a cold sterilant for heat-sensitive medical equipments and as a fumigant for food for more than 30 years, and it is used more widely than radiation although radiation sterilization has made significant inroads in recent years. But according to recent studies of toxicities such as mutagenicity, haemolytic effect and possible carcinogenicity of Ethylene oxide (ETO) and its two main reaction products, Ethylene chlorohydrin (ETCH) and Ethylene glycol (ETG), Environmental Protection Agency in U.S.A. has suggested some regulations on residual gas in drug products and medical devices for human use. The mutagenic activity of ETO compared with that of X-ray has an equivalency of 1 ppm/hr for ETO as compared to 20 mrad for X-ray, and one could suggest the present maximum allowable concentration for ETO (50 ppm) should be 400 times lower than the radiation standard (2.5 mrad/hr). Although radiation sterilization has advantages of simplicity of operation and complete reliability, changes of physico-chemical properties with possible formation of toxic substances may occur. It is therefore necessary to make some regulations of our own for residual toxicities orginated from each sterilization method.
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