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An official publication of the Research and Education Department, The Champion Company  - page 1 / 4





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Number 639, 2000

BLEACH IN EMBALMING ROOM : Overrated and Overused. Part 1 By: James H. Bedino, Chemist/Dir. Research The Champion Company

AB TRAC : An overview of bleach use as a disinfectant in embalming rooms is surveyed. The shortcomings and misuses of bleach in embalming rooms is discussed. A discussion of bleach as a chemical disinfectant and its hazards is outlined. Bleach problems with formaldehyde embalming fluids and ammonia based cleansers is covered. Bleach and its use in CJD embalming cases is discussed. uggestions for safe , more effective alternatives to bleach in embalming rooms are presented.

INTRODUCTION: Bleach, as a disinfectant, is used in virtually all embalming rooms in the United tates. Most embalmers, however, are unaware of the limitations and proper usage of bleach, particularly in embalming rooms. Bleach really became popular in the mid 1980s during the AID scare. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) document that advocated bleach use in AID disinfection (1987) launched the widespread overusage of bleach in embalming rooms. It was not uncommon at the time to hear of bleach being preinjected into bodies, bleach actually mixed with embalming fluid (a dangerous situation) or bodies being embalmed with bleach instead of embalming fluid. A close look at this document reveals that the CDC did not advocate bleach in lieu of other disinfectants, but merely a statement that bleach was effective if no other registered or approved disinfectants were available for use. The latest revision to the 1987 document (1995 revision) calls notice to the limitations of bleach in high organic debris, blood or body fluid situations (the typical scenario of embalming) and suggest careful selection of effective disinfectants -- whether bleach or otherwise.

Even in the situation with HIV, which is a very labile virus from a disinfection standpoint, bleach has several documented serious failures. Under reasonable blood burden, bleach at a 1:10 dilution is ineffective against HIV even at time frames of 5 minutes. Bleach is seriously limited in its oxidation potential when gross organic debris is present. Volume ratios of 9:1 - v/v are typical when blood spills are present -- a typical situation in embalming.

An official publication of the Research and Education Department, The Champion Company 

pringfield, OH 45501


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