Disinfectant to be withdrawn

A disinfectant blamed for causing skin problems and asthma among NHS workers
is being withdrawn from the UK market from 1 May.

Cidex, the brand name for the disinfectant glutaraldehyde, is widely used
within NHS operating theatres to kill viruses on certain surgical instruments.

But health workers’ union Unison and the HSE have been worried about its
effect on workers. It can be harmful if inhaled or swallowed, can irritate the
eyes and respiratory tract and can cause damage to the skin and eyes.

The manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, has stressed the product is safe
and that it is only being withdrawn so it can be replaced by an updated
version.

In January, the HSE issued guidance on how much glutaraldehyde workers
should be exposed to, including what employers should do to protect the health
of their staff. It followed earlier guidance published in 1999.

Unison welcomed the news of its withdrawal. Jon Richards, national health
and safety officer, said: "There is no ‘safe’ level of exposure and no place
for it in hospitals today. It is well known that it can irritate the skin,
eyes, throat and lungs. I am delighted to hear that it will be withdrawn from
hospitals."

J&J Medical, the company that manufactures the product in the UK, said
Cidex had been used "safely and effectively" in hospitals for more
than 30 years.

"As with all sterilants and disinfectants, Cidex must be handled with
care and certain precautions against exposure observed," it added.

The transition to the new product, called Cidex OPA, would take place
gradually during the year.

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