Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

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Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby ek » Apr 9, 2009 12:01 pm

Jillian Bartlett in PMI Customer Service emailed me this link today and suggested I refer people to it:

http://www.pmirope.com/sites/374/pics/W ... nation.pdf

I will format this in BBcode and post it in this thread shortly. But I wanted to get that out as soon as possible, especially given that at least one respected member of the caving community is making unsubstantiated statements not merely about the determined effectiveness of various decontamination procedure, but also their safety.

Moderators: I would suggest that this thread be stickied. If you want to edit this post down to remove my commentary and my explanation for why I am posting it as I am, I'd be fine with that.
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby ek » Apr 9, 2009 12:05 pm

And here's PMI advisory, with as close to the original formatting as can be preserved in a Cavechat forum post:

WNS and ROPE DECONTAMINATION

The recent outbreak of WNS has spawned a great deal of discussion and debate over the question of how to avoid spreading contaminants between caves. Some recommendations include asking cavers to thorough clean and disinfect all clothing and equipment between cave trips.

Although it is not clear if or at what concentration bleach will permanently destroy spores believed to cause WNS, bleach seems to have become a popular cleaning option. Bleach is commonly known to damage fibers under certain conditions (including high concentrations, repeated use, etc), and because of this PMI is concerned about the recommendations being made for repeated cleaning of ropes with even diluted bleach.

PMI has previously published the following statement regarding the use of bleach to disinfect 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 blood‐borne pathogens or other infectious substances, we are often asked about appropriate methods for cleaning ropes.

Certain authorities recommend specific concentrations of household bleach for disinfecting gear that has been exposed to certain contaminants, so naturally customers often wonder at what concentration their PMI rope will experience deterioration. While PMI cannot speak to the subject of infectious diseases, or what solution might neutralize a given hazardous substance, we are happy to provide at least some guidance regarding the effect of bleach on rope fibers.
Specifically, PMI has found 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.*

PMI cannot, however, speak to whether or not such a mixture will truly disinfect your rope from contaminants.

Remember, 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..

*DuPont Bulletin X225, 1968


This statement is intended to address a unique, distress situation and does not address the question of multiple, or repeated disinfection.

The situation with WNS introduces the concept of frequent decontamination, a situation that has not previously been common. With this in mind PMI would like to take this opportunity to remind cavers and other rope users that bleaching a rope does weaken the fiber structure, and repeated bleaching will weaken the fiber structure even more.

Specifically, although PMI’s testing suggests that a single disinfection using the recommended method will not cause appreciable harm to nylon or polyester ropes, if this process is repeated multiple times the damage will inevitably become appreciable, and this damage is not necessarily detectable through visual inspection.

Therefore, at this time PMI does NOT recommend using the above method to repeatedly disinfect ropes.
(http://www.pmirope.com/sites/374/pics/W ... nation.pdf)
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby Carl Amundson » Apr 9, 2009 12:29 pm

Thanks Eliah for this clarification of the decon procedures from PMI's prospective.
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby NZcaver » Apr 9, 2009 12:44 pm

Nice work, Eliah. Thanks for your efforts. You've been "stickied." :grin:
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby Batgirl » Apr 9, 2009 2:09 pm

I think we should all use our common sense when decontaminating gear. Is deconn important? Absolutely! First time deconn should be done with 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to ensure that all pathogens have been destroyed. I clean my gear after every trip starting with hose/pressure washer to remove all the excess mud followed by a thorough cleansing with soap and hot water utilizing a strong bristled brush. It may take a few times of doing this to remove all the mud from ropes. And when finished, it doesn't hurt to use a can of lysol disinfectant either.

Please be respectful to your fellow cavers that do care about the outcome and spread of this disease by decontaminating your gear. If you still find excuses to not do so, stop caving.

:cavingrocks:
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby ek » Apr 9, 2009 2:19 pm

Batgirl wrote:First time deconn should be done with 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to ensure that all pathogens have been destroyed.

That does not necessarily ensure that all pathogens have been destroyed. No study has shown that 10% bleach decontamination is effective at eliminating the fungus (much less all pathogens) when it is impregnated in caving gear.
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby chaz » Apr 9, 2009 2:59 pm

This may actually be a new thread in the making, but I'll leave that up to the moderators. On the issue of Decontamination, I have a thought that may, or may not work, but I wanted to bring it up in hope that it will get to someone smarter than myself. I have heard that many professional sports teams have a machine that kills molds, fungus, and bacteria. They put all the gear in and crank up the Ozone, which penitrates padding and all killing the nastys and leaving stuff smelling fresh. If this wont work on WNS contamination, or may harm ropes, then I'm sorry I brought it up. They say there's no dumb question....Who's got the answer?
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby BrianC » Apr 9, 2009 4:04 pm

Good question Chaz! Ozone ( o3) does have strong oxidizer qualities, stronger and faster than chlorine, but also deteriorates plastics! Nylon threads would have damage after exposure to o3!
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby Batgirl » Apr 9, 2009 5:56 pm

According to an article (posted on the WNS section of the NSS website), NY State Wildlife Pathologist Ward Stone has learned that the WNS fungus:

Dies in temperatures near 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Can survive indirect sunlight but dies when exposed to direct ultraviolet light.
Can be killed with some disinfectant products, such as Lysol.

If a product as simple as Lysol can kill it, the surely Bleach will as well.

:cave softly:
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby ek » Apr 9, 2009 10:11 pm

First of all, it does not follow that if one of Lysol's many products kills the fungus, that 10% chlorine bleach must as well. That it makes sense to you that something could be the case does not mean we know it is the case. That's not science.

Second of all, knowing that a product kills the fungus in some test, i.e. that the fungus was killed by the product when it was in glassware and the product was added, does not mean that we know it kills the fungus on / impregnated in caving gear and clothing.

It's interesting that Dr. Stone concluded that it dies when exposed to direct UV light, since Dr. Blehert has found that the fungus does not die when exposed to direct UV light. (See page 4, "UV light in a laboratory is unsatisfactory.") I would suggest that perhaps we do not know conclusively that UV light kills the fungus...or to put it another way, UV light is not established to kill the fungus.

In addition, even if UV light were established to kill the fungus, that does not mean that it would kill the fungus if it is embedded in and protected by fibers of clothing, rope, harnesses, boots, or other textiles.
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby PYoungbaer » Apr 10, 2009 7:03 am

To my knowledge, Dr. Ward Stone's findings have not been confirmed by any other laboratory. Dr. Hazel Barton contacted Dr. Stone for detailed information on his methods and assays, but has not received a response. EK is correct that Dr. David Blehert said that the lab UV equipment is not efficient or reliable. This is one reason why we've granted Dr. Barton NSS funds - to get reliable answers.
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby wyandottecaver » Apr 10, 2009 4:20 pm

Stone is apparently a good pathologist......his history of comments regarding WNS however leaves much to be desired. I have previously referred to him as a laughingstock though that was probably a bit harsh and over the top. However, he does have a record of making unsupported and sometime downright puzzling statements........

batgirl...if you regularly retire your ropes then any damage you may be doing using bleach and lysol and detergents on your ropes hopefully won't reach a critical level before you buy a new one. If however, your like many of us and keep a rope till it is "trashed" gradually using it for less and less critical functions then I strongly urge you to reconsider your methods. Bleach *is* bad for rope..period. So are regular detergents. Use only very mild ones like ivory snow. Lysol may or may not be damaging...I wouldn't volunteer to be the guiniea pig......
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 10, 2009 9:31 pm

ek wrote:But I wanted to get that out as soon as possible, especially given that at least one respected member of the caving community is making unsubstantiated statements not merely about the determined effectiveness of various decontamination procedure, but also their safety.


Jeepers, I think he is talking about me! Or is he? Well, either way, I certainly am aware of all of this and did not mean to state or imply that repeated immersion and soaking in 10% bleach is "safe", whatever that means. We could have a discussion about system safety factors and so forth, but there is no point. My point was that the 10% bleach protocol has been promoted, accepted, and used without any problems that anyone here has been able to point to for more than a decade. But that is also irrelevant, is many cavers would not believe in or accept the safety or efficacy of the method even if Jesus Christ came down from Heaven and said so himself on the 11:00 news. ;-)

I have also consulted a number of expert sources this week (among my other activities, ahem), including PMI and OR1, and all have told me that they do not really know what the result of repeated 10% bleach treatments would be or how many such treatments it would take (10? 100? 1000?) to degrade the safety of a rope or harness by a substantial margin (substantial = sufficient to reduce the system safety factor to an unacceptable level) as they have not conducted or at least have not completed adequate testing. Not really very helpful.

However, they all agreed that bleaching does have a cumulative effect that they do not recommend that procedure for repeated WNS decontamination. Neither do I. They emphasize that it is safe for at least one such decontamination, which is what I have done and what I have recommended. My future decontaminations will be done with the Lysol method (more on this later) or preferably with boiling water and an appropriate antibacterial detergent cleanser. I'm still conferring with the experts and manufacturers on that, and some professional testing is in progress.

As to the Lysol, no one seems willing to say that it is "safe" for repeat use either. I don't blame them. If I owned a rope company (I did own a very small part of one for a short time) I would be reluctant to say that it was "safe" to repeatedly soak my life safety products in some chemical mixture unless I was absolutely certain, as a result of professional testing and analysis, that it was indeed 100% safe. So don't hold your breath waiting for such an endorsement from the manufacturers, though I expect some are going to do the testing and may eventually be able to make a statement.

That leaves us with hot water and soap. What, exactly is the objection thoroughly scrubbing and cleaning your gear in very hot water and rinsing or soaking it in, say, 210-degree-Fahrenheit water? That is what I plan to do, and will urge others to do, until a better solution is announced.

Regarding the efficacy of any or all of the treatments, I make no claims or representations other than those made by the people who have tested and evaluated these methods and published statements about their effectiveness. There have been some changes over the last few weeks, so you should review the most current information, which is available through the NSS link to the US FWS WNS page.
Last edited by Bill Putnam on Apr 11, 2009 3:18 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 11, 2009 3:16 am

Batgirl wrote:I think we should all use our common sense when decontaminating gear. Is deconn important? Absolutely! First time deconn should be done with 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to ensure that all pathogens have been destroyed. I clean my gear after every trip starting with hose/pressure washer to remove all the excess mud followed by a thorough cleansing with soap and hot water utilizing a strong bristled brush. It may take a few times of doing this to remove all the mud from ropes. And when finished, it doesn't hurt to use a can of lysol disinfectant either.

Please be respectful to your fellow cavers that do care about the outcome and spread of this disease by decontaminating your gear. If you still find excuses to not do so, stop caving.



Yes! Yes! Yes! You go batgirl!

Here's someone who really gets it. Why didn't I say that? :doh:
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Re: Official PMI Statement on 10% Bleach: NOT FOR WNS DECON

Postby ArCaver » Apr 11, 2009 7:32 am

Batgirl wrote:I think we should all use our common sense when decontaminating gear. Is deconn important? Absolutely! First time deconn should be done with 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to ensure that all pathogens have been destroyed. I clean my gear after every trip starting with hose/pressure washer to remove all the excess mud followed by a thorough cleansing with soap and hot water utilizing a strong bristled brush. It may take a few times of doing this to remove all the mud from ropes. And when finished, it doesn't hurt to use a can of lysol disinfectant either.

Please be respectful to your fellow cavers that do care about the outcome and spread of this disease by decontaminating your gear. If you still find excuses to not do so, stop caving.

:cavingrocks:



The last sentence of this post sounds very unfair, although I doubt it was meant to. I care deeply about the outcome and spread of this disease as do most if not all cavers. I also care about the integrity of the gear that I use. As long as decon only requires washing with detergent and water, something I've been doing long before this outbreak, then I have no problem. But when "experts" admit they are guessing about proper procedures, and those procedures are probably destructive, then I reserve the right to disagree. In the first paragraph you ask if decon is important. The correct answer is, "Maybe!" We still do not know if the fungus is the killer or if it is can it kill without something else being present.
As far as the moratorium goes, if it's imposed in Arkansas I'll honor it. No problem there. My big issues with this whole C.F. is that professionals were still handling infected bats bare handed as recently as two months ago and some probably still do, yet they are calling for us to follow decon procedures after being in caves that do not even have bats. They still have no idea what is killing bats but they want to close all caves whether bats are present or not. Little browns and Indiana bats both form nursery colonies beneath loose bark yet I've not heard a call to close the forests to hikers, bikers, horse riders and hunters. Are cavers more likely to affect the bats than other groups? Yep. But only in bat caves. Does that mean that the others have zero responsibility. Nope. Whatever it is could be coming into the caves with the bats from the great outdoors.
I admire your concern and I suspect if more cavers cared as much as you do then some mistakes from the past could have been avoided. I also worry that you may unknowingly expose yourself and others to danger by using the wrong disinfectants on your gear. Some lysols contain phenols that can damage synthetics. Remember too that any antibacterial is designed to destroy life and many have the potential to harm humans if used improperly. If you don't rinse the lysol from your gear you may be destroying native microbial communities in the cave with your decon procedures. I also was taught that heat is an enemy of nylon but I don't know if domestic water heaters, normally set around 130F-180F are warm enough to cause damage. :cave softly:
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