Choosing a Method: Ethylene Oxide, Gamma, Electron Beam or X-ray?
When it comes to sterilization processing of, there are several modalities that work to ensure sterility assurance—especially in the arena of single-use medical devices. Some of these methods include ethylene oxide gas, radioactive cobalt-60 (gamma), electron beam and X-Ray. At Iotron Industries, we specialize in electron beam irradiation, or E-Beam, processing. This method of sterilization processing has proven to be safe, environmentally friendly, and efficient.
Below is an overview of various types of sterilization methods to see how the technology differs from method to method.
Ethylene Oxide sterilization is a chemical process that disrupts the DNA of microorganisms preventing them from reproducing. Due to its ability to penetrate many layers of packaging and to propagate into very small spaces, it’s used to sterilize various complex devices such as catheters, stents, wound care dressings, and other single-use medical device equipment. The products it can sterilize are limited to ones with strong aeration abilities because the ethylene oxide is easily absorbed by many materials.
Ethylene Oxide sterilization has a long turn-around time and is less efficient vs. other modalities to sterilize items in a timely manner.
Gamma radiation is an output of high-energy photons (gamma rays) emitted by radioactive decay of atomic nuclei, typically from a radioisotope source, such as Cobalt-60. This kind of radiation is used for several applications, like the color enhancement of gemstones, sterilizing food and equipment, cosmetics, single-use medical products, and even treating some forms of cancer.
However, gamma rays are not without significant health risks. Due to the high penetrating power of gamma radiation, it makes humans and other materials more susceptible to alteration or destruction of living cells. Therefore, the processing facilities that perform sterilization using these radioisotopes house the processing cell inside a significantly thick concrete shield in order to protect workers and other materials from exposure to the gamma rays.
Electron beam processing is the core sterilization process at Iotron Industries Canada/USA. Its diverse abilities to effectively decontaminate materials and strengthen plastics, makes electron beam a viable sterilization method for high volume applications across multiple industries. Our unique IMPELA® technology works great for sterilizing medical devices, to reduce and control bioburden levels within agricultural products, and to achieve the best crosslinking effect of orthopedic polymers.
Where other sterilization methods present several safety and environmental concerns, electron beam processing takes place within concrete walls reducing safety hazards to those administering the electron beam. Additionally, its environmental footprint is small since we are able to recycle the energy and resources used making it a more sustainable sterilization method.
Similar to gamma radiation and electron beam sterilization, X-ray sterilization also disrupts the DNA of microorganisms by ionizing their molecular structure. This sterilization method is basically a modified electron beam accelerator, but penetrates deeper than other forms of sterilization. It’s used to sterilize medical devices, sanitize packaging, cosmetics, and more by showering products with high energy X-ray photons. Though similar to gamma radiation, it has less oxidative effects on plastics and packaging materials and equally as safe to operate and control as electron beam overall.
Why Use Electron Beam Processing?
Currently, electron beam is the fastest growing sterilization technology in the medical device market and almost all of the other markets that it serves. While there are many methods to sterilize medical devices, irradiate food & agricultural products, or crosslink plastics, Iotron Industries believes electron beam technology provides the best value proposition from the standpoint of speed, innovation, efficiency and sustainability into the future.