What exactly is decontamination?
Decontamination is the process of cleansing an object or substance to remove contaminants such as micro-organisms or hazardous materials, including chemicals, radioactive substances, and infectious diseases. Decontamination is sometimes abbreviated as “decon”, “dcon” or “decontam”.
The purpose of decontamination is to prevent the spread of micro-organisms and other contaminantsthat may threaten the health of human beings or animals or damage the environment.
Decontamination is most commonly used in medical environments, including dentistry, surgery and veterinary science, in the process of food preparation, in environmental science and in forensic science.
There are many ways to decontaminate items, whether it be tools after a job, or a tank that must be cleaned. Here are some methods of decontamination and the steps that are taken.
Water purification is the process of removing undesirable chemicals, biological contaminants, suspended solids and gases from contaminated water. The goal of this process is to produce water fit for a specific purpose. Most water is disinfected for human consumption (drinking water) but water purification may also be designed for a variety of other purposes, including meeting the requirements of medical, pharmacological, chemical and industrial applications. In general the methods used include physical processes such as filtration, sedimentation, and distillation, biological processes such as slow sand filters or biologically active carbon, chemical processes such as flocculation and chlorination and the use of electromagnetic radiation such as ultraviolet light.
The purification process of water may reduce the concentration of particulate matter including suspended particles, parasites, bacteria, algae, viruses, fungi; and a range of dissolved and particulate material derived from the surfaces that water may have made contact with after falling as rain.
The standards for drinking water quality are typically set by governments or by international standards. These standards will typically set minimum and maximum concentrations of contaminants for the use that is to be made of the water.
It is not possible to tell whether water is of an appropriate quality by visual examination. Simple procedures such as boiling or the use of a household activated carbon filter are not sufficient for treating all the possible contaminants that may be present in water from an unknown source. Even natural spring water – considered safe for all practical purposes in the 19th century – must now be tested before determining what kind of treatment, if any, is needed. Chemical and microbiological analysis, while expensive, are the only way to obtain the information necessary for deciding on the appropriate method of purification.
Disinfectants are substances that are applied to non-living objects to destroy microorganisms that are living on the objects. Disinfection does not necessarily kill all microorganisms, especially resistant bacterial spores; it is less effective than sterilization, which is an extreme physical and/or chemical process that kills all types of life.Disinfectants are different from other antimicrobial agents such as antibiotics, which destroy microorganisms within the body, and antiseptics, which destroy microorganisms on living tissue. Disinfectants are also different from biocides — the latter are intended to destroy all forms of life, not just microorganisms. Disinfectants work by destroying the cell wall of microbes or interfering with the metabolism.
Sanitizers are substances that simultaneously clean and disinfect.
Bacterial endospores are most resistant to disinfectants, but some viruses and bacteria also possess some tolerance.
Particulate removal is utilized to remove dangerous build-ups of contaminates. This occurs most frequently in manufacturing facilities that may have inadequate air movement and filtration to control the build-up.
The removal process usually entails vacuuming with high efficiency filtration on the effluent air stream. This process may be enhanced with high pressure air or detail wiping in some cases.
Chemical Neutralization is the process of neutralizing a chemical contaminate with an agent that removes the hazard. This can be a simple neutralization process associated with acid and basis. Solvents may also be utilized to remove a particular hazard such as PCBs or other organic contaminates.
Here at Mantis Environmental we pride ourselves on being able to decontaminate just about anything, some of these however are our specialties.
PCBs were contained in most oils that could be subject to higher levels of heat. Although no PCB has been manufactured in the US since the 70’s there is still a lot of the oil in use in older equipment. If the oil leaks out or is spilled, decontamination is required. The regulations covering such a clean-up are explicit in 40CFR Part 761.
Metal dust decontamination is a prevalent need in the manufacturing industry. These dusts can accumulate in the higher reaches of the facility outside of the normal maintenance/cleaning zones. These dust accumulations can be removed successfully with a combination of HEPA equipped vacuum units and detail wiping.
Pesticide decontamination is occasionally required in residences as well as industrial facilities. A pesticide or herbicide may be used that causes a reaction or sensitivity to occupants or personnel. In these cases Mantis can perform a decontamination of the spaces including treating the air with ozone to remove airborne particulate.
General building and facility decontamination can be conducted for a host of other situation that might be needed. This includes wood and paper dust that may present a fire hazard.
Equipment decontamination may be needed prior to moving large pieces over the road. This decontamination might also be necessary as part of the routine maintenance for the equipment.
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