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6 FAQs About Effective Biological Safety Cabinet Decontamination

Contamination in labs comes from various sources, including dirty lab coats, poorly designed work areas, lack of routine cleaning, and poor cell culture management. When you discover contamination in your biological safety cabinets (BSCs), it can be difficult to eliminate without the help of specialists. Here I answer six questions about BSC certification and decontamination.

Q: What maintenance and upkeep is required for biological safety cabinets?

A: In accordance with the latest NSF/ANSI Standard 49, BSCs shall be field certified at the time of installation and annually thereafter; when replacing HEPA/ULPA filters; when maintenance or repair of internal parts is needed; and after relocating the cabinet to a new room or facility. You should consider more frequent certification for particularly critical applications such as BSL-2+ operations and work involving sensitive cell cultures. Field certification ensures the unit continues to meet the design criteria, as established by NSF/ANSI and the BSC manufacturer, thus confirming environmental, personnel, and product protection. Based on the results of the tests performed during field certification, the following may be required: filter replacement/repair, airflow adjustments, and/or various parts replacement.

Q: How can we be certain that Triumvirate’s method is effective and our biological safety cabinet is successfully decontaminated?

A: We use the chlorine dioxide method, which has been validated and developed in conjunction with NSF/ANSI Standard 49, an industry-recognized guidance standard. Our experts have been formally trained by the decontamination equipment manufacturer to follow the corresponding standard operating procedure (SOP NO. D15-CDBSC Chlorine Dioxide Decontamination of Biological Safety Cabinets). Before beginning the procedure, the BSC’s primary user completes a questionnaire to document historic use and other pertinent information such as the manufacturer, model, and whether particular hazardous materials have been used within the unit. Our experts take time to identify and understand the materials used inside your BSC to ensure the method will be effective. To facilitate full disinfection of surfaces, we remove the bulk debris before introducing the chlorine dioxide so the gas can contact all surfaces and any residual biological materials that remain after the wipe down. Upon request, biological indicators may be utilized to confirm successful disinfection.

Q: What are the advantages of the chlorine dioxide method?

A: The method is validated and approved by NSF/ANSI Standard 49; no residue or harmful by-products are produced; chlorine dioxide is a “true gas” and therefore has no condensation issues; and the process is completed in less time than other validated methods.

Q: Does the chlorine dioxide method have any disadvantages?

A: The low OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of chlorine dioxide means that the laboratory must be vacated during the process. Mild corrosion may occur inside the BSC, but this can be prevented by eliminating UV light exposure.

Q: How long does the decontamination procedure take?

A: The process takes approximately 3 to 4 hours for one BSC. When we complete multiple BSCs in a series, the efficiency is improved and therefore the time per unit decreases. Depending on the circumstances, we can decontaminate 6 to 8 BSCs in one working day.

Q: Can my staff work inside the lab during the decontamination process?

A: Due to the low PEL, the laboratory must be vacated during the chlorine dioxide process. Signage will be posted indicating no entry, and Triumvirate staff will be present throughout the process to monitor conditions.

Biological safety cabinets are essential to many researchers’ work, and preventing contamination is critical to protecting the integrity of experiments. Preventing and remediating contaminated BSCs enables your lab to run more smoothly, reduces equipment downtime, and creates a safe and compliant workplace. Learn more about our Biological Decontamination Services.