August 24 2016. Aseptic Enclosures. St. Louis, MO. The purpose of this post is to help you evaluate the type of hood you do your sterile and containment work in. It is our strong contention that much more laboratory work should be done in a class III ACI a.k.a. Glove-box, Isolator, etc. They provide superior protection for you and your research and are valuable, even if your research is not BSL4. Your science, and your health are very important; taking shortcuts relative to the protection of either can have significant short and long-term ramifications. Unfortunately, in our thousands of laboratory audits, we have found that procedural errors relative to aseptic containment work seem to be all too frequent. We hope you find this content useful and informative…and of course, if we can help you with any equipment that will provide you and your science with a superior level of protection, please let us know.
In the image to the right you can see a scientist working in a typical hood. Usually this device is called a tissue culture hood, or a BSC (Biological Safety Cabinet). What are the issues with this picture? Why is she wearing a mask? Is it because what she is working with is hazardous to her health?? Or, perhaps, she is trying to provide additional protection to the product??? Either reason is valid and possible, but either reason also is a good indicator that the equipment being used does not provide 100% containment and additional controls are needed to provide better protection to either the work or the worker.
Also, you can see her arm is touching the bottom sash. If hazardous, this is not good for her to do! If sterile, it is not good for the product. She is wearing a lab coat, which is not a bad idea, but can be an exposure issue. Another significant breach and exposure issue is the fact her “uncovered” arms are inside the hood. It does not take a post doctorate to know that this is a practice that is risky to the science and potentially the scientist! YES, the BSC is much better than nothing. It does a reasonable job of containment and keeping the product clean, but it is HIGHLY dependent on the user to do the right thing to make sure all is protected…We all know that the lack of proper procedure and protocol is often a big problem. People can sometimes be sloppy and are frequently taking shortcuts. Shortcuts that risk both them and their work. Downstream sample and/or incubator contamination is one problematic indicator of poor aseptic technique. Hopefully your lab is not having any issues associated with exposure. If it is, corrective action needs to be taken immediately.
An ACI, unquestionably, provides superior protection for your science and your scientists!
In distinct contrast to the woman working in the Tissue Culture Hood above, is the person working in one of our ACI’s to the left. An ACI offers a comprehensive barrier system that makes it extremely difficult to expose oneself to the product and conversely the product to the person. In our ACI you can work with a significantly higher degree of safety for both your laboratory workers and your research. ACIs provide comprehensive containment and superior aseptic quality. Yes, an ACI is slightly more expensive to buy, but the potential long-term savings can be huge!
So, why aren’t ACIs used more frequently? The two primary reasons are cost and ergonomics. We will defend our position on both points.
1) Cost: You are going to spend $4-5,000.00 more to get an ACI vs. a BSC. How much is your research work worth? Product contamination is costly. This equipment is going to be in use for decades. Do you feel having a 100% barrier between the person and process will yield better results? Of what value is that to you? Liability is another potential cost. It is a difficult subject, but valid, if you have a lab that is working with materials hazardous to the people in the lab. Are you certain they are using the proper hood with the proper BSL rating, and the biggest question is, are they using the right technique? Hundreds of times we have witnessed highly educated professionals use sloppy procedures that creates risk to their work, themselves and their coworkers. If the only hoods in your lab are ACIs, you know that you are providing the best possible environment for your people, and your research, and preventing misuse of equipment. This value is hard to put a number to, but certainly much greater than a few thousand dollars.
2) Ergonomics: A lot of people have the misconception that BSCs are more comfortable to work in than ACIs. Perhaps with many brands of ACIs that is the case. However, most of our customers report that our equipment is “more comfortable” to work in than the BSC they were previously using. If interested, we will be happy to review our ergonomic advantages with you. OK, yes, it might take a few more seconds to move product into our ACI. First the product is moved into the pass-through, then you don the sleeve/glove combo, then you move product into the work chamber. But consider for a moment the alternative of moving product directly into and out of an open faced BSC…yes, a few extra seconds, but orders of magnitude better protection! Relative to efficiency, it is noteworthy that the requirements for gowning and protective gear can be greatly reduced when using an ACI. This would make it both faster and less costly.
If you are interested in doing more research on the topic, please see the below links. We have spent the better part of the last several days researching articles and content that supports the advantages of our ACIs over typical BSCs. Below are some of the pertinent links we found. Your work is serious…please be careful!
The impetus for this post is the following link concerning the recent death of a researcher in California. He was exposed to the germ he was working on. Per the article he was working in a hood. The type of hood is not know. The cause of exposure has not been identified. Clearly, this type of work should be done in a BSL4 grade ACI complete isolation. We have found people, sometimes can be lulled into thinking a BSC provides comprehensive protection. That absolutely is not the case. Yes, in our equipment, risks are significantly mitigated vs. an open BSC, but even in a full containment, class III, Aseptic Containment Isolator (ACI), exposure risks are present and should be considered i.e. product transfer, product permeation of gloves and sleeves and decontamination techniques. Know your risks! https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2012/05/death-california-researcher-spurs-investigation
There are a number of good sites that provide information on the proper usage of Hoods. If you have a EH&S department, or a safety officer, they likely have a number of great articles to better educate yourself on the proper usage of protective equipment. This link to the information created by the University of Vermont is a particularly good overview of the safety cabinets. https://www.uvm.edu/riskmanagement/biological-safety-cabinets
For your information, Aseptic Enclosures manufactures a wide range of equipment for Scientific Research, Pharmaceutical Production and Hospital Pharmacy Compounding. We have many standard designs of Isolators, Clean Benches and Portable clean-rooms to choose from. We also have full engineering and design capabilities and can economically provide custom aseptic processing environments. For additional information on our products and capabilities, please do not hesitate to contact us at 800-418-9289 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please…we welcome your comments. This is an important issue that needs additional attention.
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