WNS nylon decontamination discussion

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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby Teresa » Feb 12, 2008 9:23 am

I'm more interested in cave clothes than rope. The NSS is out there saying don't wear cotton or use canvas, and that synthetics are better than lots of natural fibers. As mentioned over in the other thread-- it's not just nylon. It's polyester and plastic based (polypro, thermax, etc), Goretex, wool, silk, and even leather. We're talking everything from underwear to cave packs which are now made of non-cotton.

In my part of the world, people go caving because it is good adventure for a low price. The most people spend is maybe for a good light, and the gas to get there. I suppose if one is wealthy enough to throw away one's clothes after a trip it's OK, but I can see where that will lead-- back to T-shirts and ratty jeans.

I hope they get the bat thing sorted out soon.
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby George Dasher » Feb 12, 2008 11:31 am

The best I'm up to so far is washing my gear in hot water in the washing machine...
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby wyandottecaver » Feb 12, 2008 5:31 pm

teresa makes a good point about the range of materials involved. I was mostly thinking of life support gear since I'm not afraid to use a tad of bleach or detergents on clothing..even though it might be harmful long term. But while goodwill is cheap enough for a trip here and there, it's not good long term or for cases where you really need more technical clothing.
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby NZcaver » Feb 12, 2008 9:28 pm

Any thoughts on using the bleach-free Chlorox wipes for helmets, Swaygo packs, and other smooth surfaces?
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby ron_miller » Feb 18, 2008 12:34 pm

Here is PMI's take on this issue:

From: Loui McCurley
Sent: Saturday, February 16, 2008 11:54 AM
To: All PMI Mail Users Not Reps
Subject: bleach and PMI ropes

Cleaning PMI Ropes
Effect of Bleach on Rope

Because PMI ropes are often used in rescue and other situations where equipment may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens or other infectious substances, we are often asked about appropriate methods for cleaning ropes. In some cases a 10% bleach solution is recommended for cleaning of exposed gear.

In response to questions stemming from a recent discussion on the TagNet discussion board, PMI Production Director Chuck Weber has provided the following guidance for customers who are concerned about the effect of bleach on rope fibers, or for those who have concerns about disinfecting their rope:

PMI suggests that a mixture of 1 part household bleach (with active ingredient of Sodium hypochlorite at 5.25% concentration) with 9 parts room temperature tap water and a 10min or less exposure time, immediately followed by a thorough rinse of room temperature water will not cause any appreciable harm to nylon or polyester ropes.

Of course, it should always be remembered that ropes are a critical element of the life safety system, and it can be difficult to make subjective decisions about the strength of rope without actually testing it to failure. The prudent course of action is to discard any rope about which there is any doubt.

This information reflects PMI’s ‘official stance’ on the subject, so please feel free to send / post / tell this information to customers in response to questions on this topic.

Thanks,

Loui
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby BrianC » Feb 18, 2008 1:09 pm

A 5.25% Bleach strength would equal (Ultra Bleach) Which is manufactured at 6% then quickly degrades to 5.25%. Standard bleach is manufactured at 3% then degrades quickly! So Ron, Is this what PMI is stating safe to use?
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby ron_miller » Feb 18, 2008 5:49 pm

BrianC wrote:A 5.25% Bleach strength would equal (Ultra Bleach) Which is manufactured at 6% then quickly degrades to 5.25%. Standard bleach is manufactured at 3% then degrades quickly! So Ron, Is this what PMI is stating safe to use?


Brian,

I guess I'm not sure where you're getting your numbers from. It appears to me that the numbers you quote for "Ultra Bleach" are actually for standard household bleach. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Household Products Database, what I would think of as "household bleach" typically has a sodium hypochlorite content (presumably upon reaching the customer, not on manufacture) of about 5.25%, as described in the PMI statement, e.g.:

Chlorox Laundry Bleach - 5.25%


According to the same source, the Chlorox Ultra bleach products, which the Chlorox website classifies as being in their "Professional Products" line, not their household line, all have sodium hypochlorite concentrations listed as "5 - 10%".

Chlorox's own website gives a slightly higher concentration of 6.15% for its regular bleach in the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS); perhaps the difference between the two sources is concentrations at manufacture and concentration upon reaching the consumer. The Ultra bleach MSDS shows a sodium hypochlorite concentration of 6.0 - 7.35%.

Bottom line - I don't work for PMI, and don't want to "interpret" their statements. If you still have questions, I have two suggestions:
A. - If you want to know how the bleach you want to use compares to what PMI defined as "household bleach", look at the label of your bleach or look up its MSDS to find out the sodium hypochlorite content.
2. - If you don't understand what PMI is trying to say, contact PMI directly. Their website has details on how to contact Customer Service.

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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby Ralph E. Powers » Feb 18, 2008 6:15 pm

Am thinking and hoping that other medically trained personnel on this board will speak up for alternate methods of disinfecting one's gear.
Right now in TAG the WNS hasn't been spotted but the threat is still very real. My thought is to clean one's gear the usual way, but on a more frequent basis. Fungus loves to grow when it's not disturbed. However if repeated cleanings are done then the fungus doesn't have much of a chance to gain a solid foothold. Now true that some are a lot more resilient than others, but for the time being I am satisified with just washing gear with regular soap (I use a cap full of woolite to each washer, personally) until more of this particular fungus is learned.
I do not have too much of a problem with the idea of using the 10:1 bleach method if WNS works it's way down to my area. Consider even just a cap full is mild enough to disinfect but not cause harm to the nylon materials. But I am wondering about alcohol (no, not the caver's preferred alcohol, the medical kind :roll: )? Of course the idea of dumping a can of beer in the wash or a shot of booze is just too unbearable for most cavers. Perhaps a 10:1 solution of that would be preferable than the bleach?

I like NZcaver's suggested method of cleaning the "hardware" (biners, ascenders, racks, et al) by wiping them down with those antiseptic cloths. This is a most particularly excellent idea.
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby ArCaver » Feb 18, 2008 6:20 pm

I understand the need to use bleach in rescue operations dealing with human pathogens, although I think there are better alternatives. I also believe we should be cleaning our gear between trips in different watersheds. But I believe there was at least one post linking to this: http://www.amcconstructionkc.com/skillsexpertise/ and questioning whether bleach would even be effective in controlling this fungus. Has anyone got an answer to this or are we being asked to destroy gear and risk lives just because it gives someone a warm fuzzy feeling to write procedures?
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby wyandottecaver » Feb 18, 2008 7:39 pm

well, this is all just my opinion....

1) the decon proceedures are being developed to follow fairly standard decon protocalls where you are trying to protect against a variety of possible contaminates like microorganisims, virus, bacteria, mold, fungus, etc. This is because we do not yet know WHAT the pathogen actually is. Formula 409 has also been mentioned as a possible alternative. So far both PMI and CMC have published protocalls they deem safe.

2) with regards to bleach and mold/fungus keep in mind that in the case of WNS we are mostly trying to remove obvious physical material like dirt, organic residues (poo), etc and then disenfecting for the not so obvious like the reproductive spores. In this case killing established roots in a porous material like drywall is less a concern than killing free spores hitch hiking on gear and even ourselves. Does the decon protocall described for WNS kill fungal spores? that I don't know.

3) I understand the response of "normal" cleaning in "clean" areas, but In my opinion, people in areas where WNS is not yet found should be MORE cautious not less. Both with their gear and especially with other cavers gear from the NE.
It seems apparent from the NY and VT cases that once it gets to an area, bats themselves will carry it to virtually all the local hibernacula regardless...and right now it appears that once it reaches a site 90-97% of those bats are doomed. It is likely that by spring over 100,000 bats or more may have perished in NY and VT. It is unfortunately possible that by next spring the entire bat populations in those two states could be decimated. Our priority should be in preventing the possibility of WNS from getting established in a new area to the extent we are able.
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby BrianC » Feb 19, 2008 3:21 pm

Ron! Thank you for all your hard work researching this issue! It is people like yourself that make cavechat such a valuable resource for cavers!
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby knudeNoggin » Feb 23, 2008 11:24 pm

CMC tests on nylon rope ... ropes were immersed in a 1:10 bleach/water solution for 10 minutes, followed by a 10 minute rinse. After 14 days, the reported strength loss was 2%.

In a CMC test conducted similarly except using straight household bleach, on the other hand, the strength loss after 14 days was 13%.

-----------------------------

PMI suggests that a mixture of 1 part household bleach (with active ingredient of Sodium hypochlorite at 5.25% concentration) with 9 parts room temperature tap water and a 10min or less exposure time, immediately followed by a thorough rinse of room temperature water will not cause any appreciable harm to nylon or polyester ropes.

... The prudent course of action is to discard any rope about which there is any doubt.


It sounds as though the rope makers don't know all so much about their material(s)
as one would hope. PMI's closing disclaimer When in doubt, <buy new> is especially lame.
It's a basis for decision that's wanted, not urban rumorism; we need to know WHEN to doubt, and when not.
Disinfecting ropes and bleach aren't exotic cases to consider.

While nice of CMC to do some testing, it would be nice to have seen ASAP-after-drying testing,
then perhaps that 2-week period, and then a 2-month? period, in order to assess the concern
about continued damage. I suspect that there is user history enough--and some understanding
of the durability of bleach, esp. after a rinse--to give some assurance that such cleaning is okay.

Interestingly, (Cortland)Puget Sound Ropes (who make big ropes) has a tale for chemical
effects (general) and for Nylon has "excellent" re "Clorox" though only "Very Good" for gasoline
(which elsewhere I'd read had zilch effect (contrary old climbing myths), though one might be
wary of additives)!? [cf http://www.psrope.com/ropecare.aspx ]

... using gently boiling water a[t] the boiling point ...


Dang, I just read something about the effect of (IIRC) 190^F water on nylon, and it wasn't good.
--trying to find it, but ...<argh> .

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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby kip » Feb 24, 2008 12:56 am

imm interesting i'd go way back and find out what the rope is made of you'd get a few surprises on what various rope materials are also used for. Also track down black diamonds rope testing and you'd find pissing on your ropes aint good yet pissing on your cuts is really good same goes for athletes foot (so says the old house wives tale). Some says that if don't hurt you then it don't hurt the rope but hey you'll never know until some clear and repeatable tests are done on a wide range of common ropes. Why do people worry about pathogens on ropes by the time you get to wash it then the risk is either gone or very nearly or you've got it either no problem or new big one. I've washed my ropes in water for 20+ years nones broken and i've never been sick if; i've been sick it is usually form the beer consumed from washing a K of rope and other paraphernalia. Ropes are harder and sturdier than we are led to believe go looking for rope failures due to either washing or manufacturer issues and i am sure you will quickly realize that it is about rigging. The real issue is making bats sick form dirty ropes and we have the same here with a pathogen called didymo - what can you do know as one cell can cause a cross contamination, so carrying on and doing your best is all we can do. If you are concerned about what the boffins says about cleaning - test test and retest over a period of time and don't go caving until you have the answers (it will leave more for the uncaring). Well thats a good rant
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WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby Ernie Coffman » Feb 24, 2008 1:53 am

For the good of the order, I believe this decontamination discussion started out on treating ropes because of bloodborne pathogen problems because of some SAR problems that have come up. I know that I contacted PMI and got the same response back from them, although it was from Jeremiah and I appreciated his quick response; and, as usual PMI has done a lot for the NSS and for cavers, rock climbers, and the industrial community; thus, basically, the concern was how to treat ropes that might have gotten contaminated by some that are being put into a Sked, Ferno-Washington, or a chicken wire litter, that's all.

Since the bat problem has come up, back in the eastern states, some of you have taken the decontamination concern to mean that this was the main emphasis ...and that's O.K., because we're probably going to be treating our equipment the same...for the time being, anyway. The two concerns--one with BBP and the other with "we don't know what it is" problem with the bats--are similar, I guess, but our BBP is something that we know for sure about. It could be HIV, it could be blood, urine, guts, whatever, so that's a given. Those of you who are writing about the way to clean your caving equipment because of going into caves, is something else, and I guess we can all learn from sharing ideas, but...we shouldn't ding the rope manufacturers, as some authors have. They are in a learning stage, as well, and will probably have some good thoughts on the subject with more studies. Not everything is learned overnight. :cave softly:
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Re: WNS nylon decontamination discussion

Postby ron_miller » Feb 24, 2008 2:50 am

Ernie Coffman wrote:For the good of the order, I believe this decontamination discussion started out on treating ropes because of bloodborne pathogen problems because of some SAR problems that have come up.


Actually, White Nose Syndrome (WNS) was indeed the genesis of this thread (it was moved here from the WNS thread over on Everything Bats), following the US Fish and Wildlife Service's recommendation to decontaminate caving gear with a dilute bleach solution to reduce the potential that cavers will inadvertently contribute to the spread of WNS. That said, the discussion here was informed by previous testing done by rope manufacturers regarding similar protocols used to decontaminate gear that may have been exposed to bloodborne pathogens (BBP). (On a side note:although BBP exposure may seem to at least one poster here to represent a very small risk, nevertheless federal occupational safety and health regulations in the U.S. may mandate gear decontamination by employers (obviously this does not include recreational caving) following direct contact with human body fluids considered to have the potential to contain BBP.)

That said, I agree with Ernie that it is unfair to expect rope manufacturers and/or vendors to provide exhaustive testing data on any specific chemicals. Their job is to make and sell rope that meets applicable standards. As far as I know, there is no rope or other life-safety gear standard regarding the effect of rinsing with a dilute bleach solution. In the litigious climate in the U.S., PMI should be applauded for actually providing cavers with some guidance on this issue. They have zero upside, and a very big downside if there's ever a failure that can even remotely be tracked back to their guidance. I would not be surprised if there's some yay-hoo out there who figures that if 10 percent for 10 minutes is good, 100% for 10 days is better.

If you're not satisfied with the testing data and recommendations that have been provided, either don't bother with the decontamination protocol, or do some testing yourself. Rope and bleach are pretty cheap, and there are a variety of ways to at least do backyard quality strength tests, not to mention all the college and university engineering departments out there who have access to dynamometers and bench testing equipment and students who need projects.
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