NIOSH Assesses Poultry Inspectors' Exposures to Peracetic Acid

Published September 14, 2016

​NIOSH recently investigated concerns regarding federal inspectors’ exposures to peracetic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and acetic acid at a poultry production plant. The inspectors checked birds for signs of infection or other defects at an evisceration line, and they also worked as on-line inspectors, a consumer safety inspector, and a public health veterinarian during the plant’s daily slaughter shift. According to NIOSH’s report, the federal poultry inspectors working on the evisceration line were required to wear a hard hat, hair net, nitrile gloves, hearing protection, fluid-resistant apron, and non-slip rubber boots. The agency notes that laboratory coats were also available.

A peracetic acid solution called Perasafe, which contains about 15 percent peracetic acid, 10 percent hydrogen peroxide, and 35 percent acetic acid, was one antimicrobial product used in processing at the plant. NIOSH explains that, in its concentrated form, Perasafe is a respiratory irritant and corrosive to skin. At the plant, the concentrated solution was mixed with water, which reduced the concentration of peracetic acid to 200 ppm.

During NIOSH’s health hazard evaluation, agency staff found low concentrations of acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide in personal and area air samples taken in the evisceration department and surrounding areas. They did not, however, detect peracetic acid in the air samples.

“Some employees reported occasional symptoms of eye and respiratory irritation,” the NIOSH report reads. “Although these symptoms can be caused by exposure to peracetic acid, acetic acid, and hydrogen peroxide, symptoms caused by these exposures are typically reported at concentrations much higher than we measured during our evaluation.”

All of the concentrations NIOSH detected in personal air samples were “well below OELs,” the report continues.

NIOSH’s report urges the employer to review evacuation plans for the plant in case of accidental release of concentrated chemicals. The employer should also encourage the inspectors to continue reporting their symptoms to occupational health and safety specialists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to NIOSH, this reporting allows for investigation when symptom frequency increases. The agency also recommends that the employer provide training regarding the requirements for voluntary use of respirators, and have employees cover exposed skin on their arms with a laboratory coat or long gloves to prevent dermal exposure to chemicals or infectious agents.

For more information, see the NIOSH report (PDF). More HHE reports are available on NIOSH’s website.

Related: This summer, the SynergistNOW blog featured a post discussing NIOSH’s plans for the HHE Program for the upcoming year.