Glutaraldehyde is an organic compound widely used as disinfectant and as preservative. It is a colorless and slimy liquid, commonly available in aqueous solution. Glutaraldehyde solutions commonly contain about 1% to 2% glutaraldehyde in it. Glutaraldehyde is usually manufactured industrially by oxidizing cyclopentane or by reacting methyl vinyl ether and acrolein followed by hydrolysis of the compound. The chemical is used in different applications but its primary application is as a disinfectant or cold sterilant for medical dental and surgical equipments.
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All medically invasive procedures require sterilization of the equipments in order to rule out any chances of infection resulting from contaminated equipments. Glutaraldehyde solution is extensively used in the medical and health care industry to cold sterilize the equipments prior to any surgical procedure. Some of the medical equipment sterilizing products that contain glutaraldehyde as an active ingredient are Hospex, Glutarex, Cidex, Aldesen and Soniacide among many others. Apart from its use in medical device sterilization it is also used as a fixative agent for tissues. Tissue fixation comprise of two steps: killing the normal function of the tissue and stabilizing the structure of the tissue. Glutaraldehyde cross links the protein of the cells and helps to kill the cells quickly. This completes the first step of tissue fixation. Apart from that glutaraldehyde is also employed as a hardening or cross linking agent to reduce the drying cycle in X-Ray film processing. This application is not only wide spread in the medical industry but has found application in some engineering applications as well.
Glutaraldehyde is also used as a chemical for the treatment of water in cooling towers, water recirculating systems and air washers in order to control and eliminate microbial growth in the systems as well as prevent corrosion. It also finds significant application in off-shore applications, where it is added to sea-water in order to prevent attack from certain sulfate reducing micro organisms which cause corrosion. Glutaraldehyde is also used as 9industrial cleaning agents particularly in food and beverage industry and tobacco industry. It is also present in the general retail cleaners in small quantities. Owing to its good disinfecting property highly concentrated solution of glutaraldehyde is used in the paper manufacturing industry to inhibit the growth of microorganisms in paper pulps. The disinfectant also finds application in several other industries such as aquaculture, leather tanning, cosmetics, and animal healthcare.
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In spite of the compound’s wide spread application its high toxicity and environmentally hazardous nature is a major restraint for growth. The chemical is highly regulated owing to the health risk it poses. Even 1% solution of glutaraldehyde is poisonous for human and animals alike and any product containing more than 0.1% glutaraldehyde solution is labeled hazardous. The common ways of poisoning include contact with skin or inhalation of fumes. High level of precaution needs to be undertaken in order to reduce occupational as well as environmental exposure to glutaraldehyde, which is a costly affair for the market players. Due to these concerns, efforts have been undertaken to reduce dependency on glutaraldehyde and find suitable substitutions.
The largest demand for glutaraldehyde is derived from Europe followed by North America and Asia Pacific regions. However the demand is expected to slow down in Europe and pick up in Asia Pacific region lead by China and India.
Some of the major companies operating in this market are BASF SE, Dow Chemicals, and Union Carbide Corporation among many others.