The largest single use of glutaraldehyde is as an antimicrobial, bactericide, fungicide and a virucide. It is used to sterilize hospital and veterinary equipment, and to disinfect surfaces in hospitals, veterinary hospitals, nursing homes, and food processing plants. It is used to prevent bacterial growth in water supplies for washing air, cooler systems, logging ponds, and pulp and paper water systems. Smaller uses are as an embalming fluid, as a fixative for tissues, for film processing and leather tanning.
Substance name: Glutaraldehyde
CASR number: 111-30-8
Molecular formula: C7H8 O2
Synonyms: Pentanedial; glutaric dialdehyde; 1,3-diformylpropane; 1,5-pentanedial; glutaric aldehyde; glutaric acid dialdehyde; dioxopentane; glutardialdehyde; gluteraldehyde; 1,5-pentanedione; potentiated acid glutaraldehyde
Glutaraldehyde is a colourless liquid, with a strong odour.
Melting Point: -6°C
Boiling Point: 188°C
Specific Gravity: 1.06
Vapour Density: 3.4
Glutaraldehyde is soluble in water and in organic solvents. Solutions in water are stable for long periods of time.
The National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) holds data for all sources of glutaraldehyde emissions in Australia.
Short-term exposure to high levels of glutaraldehyde may result in sudden headaches and strong irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Ingestion may result in abdominal pains, cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea, and or a burning sensation in the chest. At very high doses vascular collapse and coma have occurred. People can become sensitised to glutaraldehyde; this is where after repeated exposures an allergic response occurs. Once sensitised, very low doses may cause a reaction.
Entering the body
The most common routes of human exposure are inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact.
Workers in the industries that use glutaraldehyde (sanitising, disinfecting, sterilising, or other antimicrobial, antibacterial, fungicidal and virucidal activities) are at risk of exposure, by skin contact and inhalation. Consumers can be exposed to glutaraldehyde by exposure to products that had glutaraldehyde used on them, but had not been properly cleaned of glutaraldehyde.
Workplace exposure standards
Safe Work Australia sets the workplace exposure standard for glutaraldehyde through the workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants:
- Maximum eight hour time weighted average (TWA): 0.1 parts per million (0.41 mg/m3)
- A peak limitation notice exists for this substance.
These standards are only appropriate for use in workplaces and are not limited to any specific industry or operation. Make sure you understand how to interpret the standards before you use them.
Drinking water guidelines
There is no guideline for glutaraldehyde in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
Glutaraldehyde is moderately toxic to aquatic animals and moderately to highly toxic to algae. Due to its short life in the environment, glutaraldehyde has minimal impact on the environment.
Entering the environment
Industrial emissions of glutaraldehyde can produce elevated, concentrations in the atmosphere around the source. Because of its short life expectancy in the atmosphere glutaraldehyde is expected to be confined to the local area within which it is emitted. Glutaraldehyde that makes its way into the ground or water is degraded with in days. Most glutaraldehyde that is released to the water goes into a public sewage facility. At the public sewage facilities it is very diluted, and the microorganisms are able to digest it, with out any impact.
Where it ends up
Much of glutaraldehyde releases are to water. In the water it fully dissolves and disperses. In the water it is broken down by bacteria (unless very high concentrations) within a few days. When glutaraldehyde is released to the air it is quickly reacted by photochemical processes to be broken down within hours. Since it is very water soluble, any unreacted material will be removed from the atmosphere by rain and fog.
No national guidelines.
The primary sources of glutaraldehyde are the industries that use it. Some of the industries that use it are crude oil and natural gas extraction, beverage manufacturers, hospitals and x-ray processing. These emissions mainly are to the air and water.
Diffuse sources, and industry sources included in diffuse emissions data
Other possible emitters of glutaraldehyde are medical offices, veterinary clinics, water in cooling systems, food processing facilities, tanneries, household disinfectants and agriculture sanitising.
There is no known source of natural glutaraldehyde.
No mobile sources.
Agricultural chemicals, disinfecting, sterilising, sanitising, household disinfectants, and furniture polish.
Sources used in preparing this information
- CalEPA Air Resources Board Toxic Air Contaminant Summary Glutaraldehyde (accessed, May, 1999)
- ChemFinder WebServer Project (1995), Glutaraldehyde (accessed, May, 1999)
- Environmental Defense Fund (1998), Glutaraldehyde The Chemical Scorecard (accessed, May, 1999)
- National Environment Protection Council (1998a), National Environment Protection Measure for the National Pollutant Inventory (accessed, May, 1999)
- NTP Chemical Repository, Radian Corporation, Glutaraldehyde (AUGUST 29, 1991) (accessed, May, 1999)
- Technical Advisory Panel (1999), Final Report to the National Environment Protection Council.
- University of California, Davis; School of Veterinary Medicine, Vermont SIRI MSDS Archive Site Glutaraldehyde 25% (accessed, May, 1999)
- Worksafe Australia (1996), Hazardous Substance Glutaraldehyde (accessed, May, 1999)
- Worksafe Australia Full text article on Glutaraldehyde (May 1999) (accessed, May, 1999)
- Safe Work Australia, Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants, accessed November 2018.
- National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011) - Updated October 2017, accessed May 2018