Glutaraldehyde exposure is one of the health concerns of many healthcare providers. Glutaraldehyde is a transparent, oily liquid with a strong odor used to sterilize dental and medical equipment safely. Since medical equipment cannot be steam-sterilized, is very heat sensitive, or is frequently subjected to high-level disinfection between patient uses, glutaraldehyde-based chemicals are good disinfectants and sterilizers. Despite efforts to find less harmful alternatives, glutaraldehyde (GA) remain one of the only chemical capable of high-level instrument disinfection in modern health care.

Moreover, cleaners, x-ray technicians, radiographers, and operating room nurses are among the most typically afflicted workers to glutaraldehyde esposure. The combination of widespread hospital use and its well-known irritating qualities has increased in occupationally-related ailments in recent years. In addition, GA is a rather powerful sensitizer and irritant with a well-documented record of causing symptoms after occupational contact.


Workers who have had glutaraldehyde exposure might exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Lung and throat irritation
  • Asthma
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing, sneezing, and nose irritation
  • Nosebleed
  • Eye irritation and conjunctivitis
  • Contact dermatitis or allergic dermatitis
  • Tan or brown hand stains
  • Hives
  • Headaches
  • Nausea


Body tissues react with glutaraldehyde fast and do not stay there for long. Also, routine testing is neither advised nor necessary since no test can precisely determine how much glutaraldehyde is present in the body. Thus, the most recommended method for diagnosing glutaraldehyde exposure are:

  • Patch test: For identification of allergic contact dermatitis
  • Pulmonary testing: Inhalation testing is used to ascertain if asthma may be linked to glutaraldehyde exposure.

It is often advised that people routinely exposed to hazardous materials have a thorough physical examination, including a review of their medical and work histories. Additionally, they must undergo routine follow-up testing.


In cases of glutaraldehyde exposure, make sure to remove the patient from further glutaraldehyde exposure and perform the following tips:

  • Eye exposure: Eyes should be thoroughly rinsed with water for at least 15 minutes. If wearing contacts, take them out. Look for medical help.
  • Skin exposure: Remove contaminated garments right away and thoroughly wash infected skin.
  • Inhalation: If breathing has stopped, start artificial respiration, and if required, do CPR.

Quickly call for help and transfer the patient immediately to a healthcare facility.

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