8.7 Heat Disinfection and Sterilization

Heat is the most common physical agent used for the decontamination of pathogens.  “Dry” heat, which is totally non-corrosive, is used to process many items of laboratory ware which can withstand temperatures of 160°C or higher for 2-4 hours.  Burning or incineration (see below) is also a form of dry heat.  “Moist” heat is most effective when used in the form of autoclaving.  Boiling does not necessarily kill all microorganisms and/or pathogens, but it may be used as the minimum processing for disinfection where other methods (chemical disinfection or decontamination, autoclaving) are not applicable or available.  

Sterilized items must be handled and stored such that they remain uncontaminated until used.

The necessary treatment to achieve sterility will vary in relation to the volume of material treated, its contamination level, moisture content and other factors.  The material presented below is to be used as general criteria for biohazardous/infectious agents coming from BSL2 laboratories.  These materials are all processed in the medical waste incinerator, but must be handled several times during transport.  Proper containment and treatment at the source reduces the potential for an accidental exposure.