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Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour (HPV) Exposure

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What is Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour (HPV)?

Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) is a chemical made up of hydrogen and water that can be used as a disinfectant to kill bacteria. Hydrogen Peroxide can be discharged from machines as a fine aerosol to decontaminate clinical areas. This is known as Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour.

Who is at Risk of Being Exposed to Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour?

Over recent years, many domestic healthcare workers have been required to use Hydrogen Peroxide Machines (HPV Machines) to bio-decontaminate hospital rooms and wards.

It is believed that thousands of people working in both the public and private sectors have been exposed to Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour from their use of these machines.

 

Why is Exposure to Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour Dangerous?

The solution emitted from HPV Machines contains Silver Nitrate (AgNO3) in addition to Hydrogen Peroxide.

The use of Silver Nitrate in biocidal products, such as HPV Machines, is still undergoing initial approval for use in the UK. Article 17 of EU Regulation No 528/2012 states that biocidal products shall not be made available on the market or used, unless authorised. The use of Silver Nitrate in these systems, therefore, is in contravention of this Regulation.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Silver Nitrate are irritants to the human body. Hydrogen Peroxide is a powerful cleaning agent and Silver Nitrate acts quickly to substantially enhance the effects of Hydrogen Peroxide.

Due to the potency of Hydrogen Peroxide it has a very short exposure limit of 2ppm (parts per million) based upon 15 minutes of exposure. This is known as the Workplace Exposure Limit (STEL). Any exposure above this limit poses a risk to health. Silver Nitrate has not been assigned a STEL, but it is likely that if the concentrations of Hydrogen Peroxide are above the Workplace Exposure Limit, then the Silver Nitrate in the atmosphere will also exceed a safe limit.

What are the Health Risks Associated with Exposure to Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour?

Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour can quickly irritate the eyes and respiratory tract, causing symptoms such as:

  • Sore and watery eyes
  • Irritation of the throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nose bleeds
  • Chest infections, and
  • A cough.

Long-term health effects include chronic persistent cough.

 

What Protective Equipment Should You Be Provided with when using HPV Machines?

Preventing exposure is the first consideration that should be taken when it comes to suitable control measures.

In order to minimise and ameliorate the risk of injury from Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour exposure, it is strongly recommended by the manufacturers of HPV Machines that gas meters are provided to perform a gas concentration test in the area that has been decontaminated, and that any level exceeding 1ppm indicates that further deactivation time should be allowed before re-entering the decontaminated area.

If exposure is unavoidable, then suitable face masks should be provided to minimise inhalation and prevent the chemicals from affecting the eyes and respiratory tract.

Who Can Bring A Claim?

If you have operated HPV machines without adequate instruction, training and protective equipment and experienced any of the symptoms discussed above, irrespective of whether those have now resolved, then it is likely that your employer breached their duty of care to you under the provisions of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 as amended (COSHH) and you may be eligible to bring a claim for compensation of up to £10,000.00.

 

Our Industrial Disease Solicitor, Natasha Hardy explains the dangers of Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour (HPV) inhalation:

A recent case of Natasha’s also featured in the Sunday Telegraph. Read the full article here. More information about Natasha Hardy can be found here.

 

How Long Will it Take To Make a Claim?

The length of time a case can take can strongly depend on how the Defendant chooses to conduct their Defence. Industrial disease claims are complex cases and can take a number of years to bring, from anywhere between 9 months and 2-3 years. Your solicitor will guide you through the entire process and ensure that you are kept up to date along the way.

How Do I Make a Claim?

If you believe you may have been exposed to Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour and suffered from any of the symptoms discussed above, then Oakwood Solicitors are here to help. We have a dedicated team of solicitors and legal advisors who will be able to discuss the merits of your claim with you in a free, no obligation discussion.

How Would the Case Be Funded?

Our cases are brought on a No Win, No Fee basis. If we accept your claim then, so long as the terms of the agreement are complied with by yourself namely that you do not mislead, and you cooperate, there will be no charge to you in the event your case fails. If the case succeeds there will be a deduction taken from your compensation for your legal costs.

Will I Lose My Job if I Make a Claim?

If you are still working for the Defendant, they cannot dismiss you for making or proposing to make a claim. If your employer attempts to do so then you are likely able to make a successful claim for unfair dismissal. Generally, in our experience, most employers understand the duties owed to their employees, including your right pursue a claim if their duties have been breached.

In the high majority of matters, the claim will normally be transferred to the Defendant’s insurers and solicitors to deal with.

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Why Use Oakwood Solicitors to Run Your Claim?

We have a very experienced and dedicated team of people in the industrial disease department. They can identify whether a claim has good prospects of success at an early stage and give advice. The team works with an extensive network of experts and have successfully dealt with a number of claims resulting from Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour exposure against the NHS.

WHAT TO DO NEXT

Call Oakwood Solicitors today on 0113 200 9787, or contact us online here for a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of the Industrial Disease Team.

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Tim Fieldhouse

Solicitor and Head of Industrial Disease

0113 200 9765

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