Environment, Health and Safety Manual - Chapter 06.03: Clinical Safety - Glutaraldehyde Control


Environment, Health and Safety Manual - Chapter 06.03: Clinical Safety - Glutaraldehyde Control


It is the policy of UNC-Chapel Hill Clinical Facilities and UNC Health Care that all employees be protected from overexposure to glutaraldehyde in the course of performing their jobs. If glutaraldehyde exposure is documented by EHS above 0.2 ppm, engineering or administrative controls will be implemented to reduce exposure below the limit. Typical trade names for glutaraldehyde solutions used in UNC-CH Clinical and UNC Health Care facilities are Cidex, Rapicide, and Wavicide.


Glutaraldehyde’s effectiveness as a chemical sterilant was first recognized in the early 1960s when the health care industry searched for a safer substitute for formaldehyde, which has carcinogenic properties. However, glutaraldehyde is an irritant to the skin and mucous membranes and can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Exposure can occur through inhalation of glutaraldehyde vapor or through skin contact with the solution. The North Carolina Department of Labor – Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Division set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for glutaraldehyde of 0.2 ppp, as a ceiling limit. This is the regulatory limit for North Carolina and cannot be exceeded at any point throughout the work shift. Also, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial (ACGIH) recommends that personal exposure to glutaraldehyde in the workplace not exceed an airborne concentration of 0.05 ppm (ceiling limit) during the work shift.


Those areas using glutaraldehyde are to be kept under negative pressure to avoid transmigration of the chemical vapor and its odor. Adequate dilution ventilation (ideally at least ten air exchanges per hour vented directly to the outside, where feasible) must be maintained to protect workers from glutaraldehyde exposure. Glutaraldehyde baths are to be covered and completely enclosed with a local exhaust system or kept in a fume hood. Engineering controls will be utilized in all areas to minimize exposure. UNC-CH Clinical and UNC Health Care currently utilize three types of engineering controls in areas using glutaraldehyde: general room ventilation, fabricated local exhaust ventilation, and automated ductless fume hoods.

Personal Protection

All skin contact with glutaraldehyde must be avoided. Use gloves and aprons made of butyl or nitrile rubber where there is a potential for a major splash to the skin. Latex gloves do not provide adequate protection. This chemical will pass readily through latex to unprotected skin. Wash gloved hands after handling glutaraldehyde. Goggles and face shields shall be worn when handling glutaraldehyde to preclude exposure to the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth.

Industrial Hygiene

Air monitoring, using acceptable methodologies with the proper detection limits, shall be performed in areas using glutaraldehyde. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) manual of analytical methods will be consulted for details. UNC-CH Environment, Health and Safety and UNC Health Care’s Environmental Health and Safety Department will conduct air monitoring at the specified intervals.

Monitoring shall be conducted:

  1. Initially to determine glutaraldehyde exposure levels.
  2. After equipment changes or revised work practices.
  3. In response to worker complaints.
  4. Subsequent air monitoring will be conducted regularly every three years and on an as needed basis.
  5. Areas with exposures above the ACGIH TLV of 0.05 ppm will be viewed as “Priority Areas”, and will be montiroed more often (at least annually).
  6. All results of air monitoring shall be given to each department and kept on file in the Environment, Health and Safety Department.

Work Practices and Training

Safe work practices for minimizing glutaraldehyde exposure include:

  1. Reviewing work practices periodically in all areas where glutaraldehyde is used in order to prevent overexposure.
  2. Communicating between all areas of UNC-CH Clinical and UNC Health Care that use glutaraldehyde to provide useful ideas for reducing exposure. Minimizing agitation of the chemical and keeping lids on the containers.
  3. In case of eye or skin contact, wash with water immediately for a period of 15 minutes. An emergency eyewash must be installed in areas that use glutaraldehyde.
  4. Wash gloved hands after handling glutaraldehyde solution.
  5. Clean up spills immediately using spill kit.
  6. The Departmental Safety Coordinators in each department with the assistance of the Environmental Health and Safety Department will train and educate new and current employees regarding safe work practices which are essential in reducing and/or eliminating chemical exposures. Training for new and current employees who are potentially exposed to glutaraldehyde will be implemented through the LMS system. All employees having potential exposure to glutaraldehyde will complete the online training on an annual basis. Training shall include the potential hazards associated with glutaraldehyde, proper use of protective clothing, safe work practices, personal hygiene concerns, signs and symptoms associated with overexposure to glutaraldehyde, and spill clean up procedures.


It is the responsibility of the Departmental Safety Coordinators in each department and the UNC-CH Environmental Health and Safety Department to implement this policy.

Contact Information

Policy Contact

Environment, Health and Safety
1120 Estes Drive
Campus Box #1650
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-1650
Phone: 919-962-5507

Back to Chapter 06.02 - Electromagnetic Interference

Proceed to Chapter 06.04 - Latex Allergy

Print Article


Article ID: 131978
Thu 4/8/21 9:21 PM
Mon 7/4/22 2:27 PM
Responsible Unit
School, Department, or other organizational unit issuing this document.
Environment, Health and Safety
Issuing Officer
Name of the document Issuing Officer. This is the individual whose organizational authority covers the policy scope and who is primarily responsible for the policy.
Issuing Officer Title
Title of the person who is primarily responsible for issuing this policy.
Executive Director
Next Review
Date on which the next document review is due.
09/01/2026 12:00 AM
Last Review
Date on which the most recent document review was completed.
01/30/2019 12:00 AM
Last Revised
Date on which the most recent changes to this document were approved.
01/30/2019 12:00 AM
Effective Date
If the date on which this document became/becomes enforceable differs from the Origination or Last Revision, this attribute reflects the date on which it is/was enforcable.
01/30/2019 12:00 AM
Date on which the original version of this document was first made official.
04/01/2012 12:00 AM