Radiation Sterilization Essay

Radiation Sterilization Essay

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Nuclear and Radioactivity Physics

Radiation Sterilization

Medical products, such as surgical dressings, sutures, catheters and syringes must be sterilized before they can be used in medical procedures. This is frequently done using radiation.


Radiation sterilization involves exposure of products to gamma radiation from a cobalt-60 source for a predetermined amount of time. The step by step process is such:

 Hermetically sealed medical products are packed in cardboard boxes.

 Boxes are loaded in carriers.

 Each carries travels at a controlled speed on an overhead monorail.

 Enters the irradiation cell through a labyrinth.

 Boxes are exposed to gamma rays from a Co-60

 Five passes ensures that the products are exposed to the minimum recommended dose which is 25 kiloGray

The energy from the photons of gamma radiation is transferred to the electrons in the material producing highly active electrons and highly reactive free radicals. These species induce breaks in the DNA double helix of the bacteria, preventing replication and hence sterilizing the material.


Cobalt-60 is produced by the process of artificial transmutation. The naturally occurring and stable isotope of cobalt-59 is irradiated with neutrons. Some of cobalt-59 nuclei absorb neutrons and this results in cobalt-60 being produced. The unstable cobalt-60 offloads some of its excess energy by releasing gamma radiation - high frequency electromagnetic radiation.


Once treated these sterilized instruments ARE NOT radioactive and are safe for use....

... middle of paper ...


 Engineering reference. "SELECTING A STERILIZATION METHOD." Internet WWW page, at URL www.engineeringreference.com/Stgerilization/select%sterilization.htm

 National Safety Council. "How is Radiation Used?." Internet WWW page, at URL www.nsc.org/issues/rad/usage.htm

 Fry, C., Chapman, R., et al "Heinemann Physics 11, Units 1&2" Heinemann hardcourt education 2005

 "Gamma irradiation" Internet WWW page, at URL www.isotron.co.uk/html/pro-eox.htm

 Reid, B.D., "Gamma processing technology: an alternative technology for terminal sterilization of parenterals.", Internet WWW page, at URL www.gammapak,com/Technical_documents_5.html

 Health physics society. Internet WWW page, at URL http://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/q4004.html

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