Peroxyacetic acid——Application, Reaction, Toxicity etc.

Oct 22,2021

Since the early 1900s, chlorine has been used as a water disinfectant. It was favored by water and wastewater industries for disinfection until several harmful disinfection by-products were discovered in chlorinated water. Studies were done to find and eliminate disinfection byproduct precursors and look for an alternative disinfectant, which turned out to be peracetic acid, or PAA. Peracetic acid is a chemical product belonging to peroxide compounds such as hydrogen peroxide. However, unlike hydrogen peroxide, it is a more potent antimicrobial agent. 

Peracetic acid has high germicidal efficiency and sterilizing capability, and its degradation residuals are not dangerous to the environment or toxic to human health. Until 1960, peracetic acid was of special interest to the food processing industry and actually was considered the only agent able to replace glutaraldehyde in the sterilization of surgical, medical, and odontoiatry instruments. The actual core medical applications of peracetic acid are its potent antimicrobial action, also at low temperatures, and the total absence of toxic residuals.

What is Peroxyacetic acid used for?

This microprocessor-controlled, low-temperature sterilization agent is a strong oxidizing disinfectant against a wide spectrum of antimicrobial activity. Peracetic acid is active against many microorganisms, such as gram-positive and -negative bacteria, fungi, spores, and yeast. This ideal antimicrobial agent is primarily used in food processing and handling as a sanitizer for food contact surfaces. Peracetic acid is also used to disinfect medical supplies and prevent biofilm formation in pulp industries. It can be applied during water purification as a disinfectant and for plumbing disinfection. Peracetic acid is suitable for disinfecting cooling tower water and effectively prevents biofilm formation and controls Legionella bacteria.

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Is Peroxyacetic acid harmful?

Peracetic acid kills microorganisms by oxidation and subsequent disruption of their cell membrane via the hydroxyl radical. Because diffusion is slower than the half-life of the radical, it will react with any oxidizable compound in its vicinity. Peracetic acid, also, is not deactivated by catalase and peroxidase enzymes produced by microorganisms. Therefore, it can damage virtually all types of macromolecules associated with a microorganism, such as carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids, and amino acids. The mechanism of oxidation is the transfer of electrons; therefore, the stronger the oxidizer will produce faster and ultimately leads to cell lyse and true microbial death.

Health Hazard Information

Acute Health Effects

The following acute (short-term) health effects may occur immediately or shortly after exposure to Peroxyacetic Acid: * Contact can severely irritate and burn the skin and eyes leading to eye damage.

* Breathing Peroxyacetic Acid can irritate the nose and throat.

* Breathing Peroxyacetic Acid can irritate the lungs causing coughing and/or shortness of breath. Higher exposures can cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema), a medical emergency, with severe shortness of breath.

Chronic Health Effects

The following chronic (long-term) health effects can occur at some time after exposure to Peroxyacetic Acid and can last for months or years:

Cancer Hazard

* There is limited evidence that Peroxyacetic Acid causes cancer in animals. It may cause cancer of the lungs.

* Many scientists believe there is no safe level of exposure to a carcinogen. Such substances may also have the potential for causing reproductive damage in humans.

Reproductive Hazard

* According to the information presently available to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Peroxyacetic Acid has not been tested for its ability to affect reproduction.

Other Long-Term Effects

* High or repeated exposure may affect the liver and kidneys.

What are the potential side effects of Peroxyacetic acid?

The following is a list of possible side-effects that may occur in medicines that contain Peracetic Acid. This is not a comprehensive list. These side-effects are possible, but do not always occur. Some of the side-effects may be rare but serious. Consult your doctor if you observe any of the following side-effects, especially if they do not go away.



Peracetic Acid may also cause side-effects not listed here.

If you notice other side-effects not listed above, contact your doctor for medical advice. You may also report side-effects to your local food and drug administration authority.

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