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Sterilization is defined as a process intended to remove or destroy all viable forms of microbial life, including bacterial spores. Effective sterilization of medical instruments is essential for manufacturers of medical products and for hospitals. While several methods of sterilization exist, each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately the choice of a sterilization process must be made with the specific product or circumstance and the potential process hazards in mind. Table 3 offers technical, environmental, worker health and safety advantages and limitations of common sterilization alternatives. Costs of the various technologies are not discussed as they are dependent on the types and amounts of materials being processed.

References for the alternatives section are as follows: Los Angeles Board of Public Works, 1995, Factsheet: Ethylene Oxide Sterilant Alternatives; Advanced Sterilization Products, 1996, "The Future of Low-Temperature Sterilization Technology," (Newport Beach, CA: Communicore); The Titan Corporation, Electron Beam Technology, (see webpage: http://www.scan.titan.com); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sterilization or Disinfection of Medical Devices: General Principles, (see webpage: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/hip/sterile/sterilgp.htm).