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3 Main Types of Decontamination

Three Main Types of Decontamination

Globally, more than 1 billion workers face exposure to hazardous substances every year. This can include chemicals, vapors, pollutants, and much more.

Exposure for U.S. workers is also as high, with over 550,000 chemical products currently in existence. About 32 million workers have the potential for exposure to one or more of these substances. Some of the methods used in decontamination can alleviate this.

There are three levels of decontamination. You can use one or more of them to protect your workers. Are you interested in knowing how? Read on to learn more about these three main types of decontamination.

What is Decontamination?

Decontamination is the process of neutralizing or removing dangerous substances. This can be from an area, a person, or an object. The substances can also include a range of contaminants, including:

  • Radioactive substances
  • Germs
  • Chemicals
  • Microorganisms

Companies in any industry can use different types of decontamination. Therefore, the methods adopted will vary based on the type of contaminant. 

The Three Main Types of Decontamination

There are three main types of decontamination. They involve using cleaning agents based on the type and level of contamination. They include:

Physical Removal

Physical removal can include removing a contaminant by displacing or dislodging it. Evaporation, rinsing, or wiping are methods for physical removal.

It may involve using heat or high pressure in some cases. But you should only use this if necessary as it can cause burns. It can also cause the contamination to spread.

You can use physical removal for loose contaminants such as vapors and dust. It’s also effective on pollutants that adhere to surfaces. These include glue, resins, and cement. You can use it on volatile liquids as well.

Chemical Detoxification

This type is also referred to as chemical disinfection or sterilization. It involves three methods that use cleaning solutions.

The first dissolves surface contaminants in a solvent. The solvent used should be compatible with the surface. If using organic solvents, you’ll need to discard them carefully. These can be toxic and/or flammable.

The second uses a surface-active agent such as household detergent. You can use some agents with organic solvents. This can help disperse and dissolve the contaminants.

The third solidifies the contaminant before removal. The process usually involves removing moisture, freezing, or producing a chemical reaction.

Both physical and chemical methods fall into four types of decontamination categories. These include radiation, heat, gases or vapors, and liquid disinfection.


This involves the process of eliminating biohazardous materials. These can include biological toxins, infectious agents, or human materials. Decontamination should be low enough to not cause infection.

Methods used include general cleaning, sterilization, disinfection, or antisepsis. Any contaminated materials require decontamination before storage, washing, or discarding.

An autoclave is often used to do this. It’s a machine that uses high temperatures and pressure. This helps to decontaminate scientific and industrial equipment. Other medical emergencies often use various types of GI decontamination

The Importance of Using One of the Three Levels of Decontamination

Regardless of your industry, decontamination is essential. It can protect your workers by reducing the transfer of contaminants. In addition, this safeguards the areas and employees who were not exposed to hazardous materials.

Protect Your Workers with the Methods Used in Decontamination 

Protecting your workers should be a priority. It is crucial to have procedures in place to safeguard those workers who have a potential for exposure. This involves following the methods used in decontamination.

These methods usually involve one or more of the three main types. But you must note that it is critical to hire an experienced environmental decontamination consulting company to help you put these procedures in place.

Atlantic Environmental can. We’ll help you implement the three contamination levels to protect your workers. We’ll also ensure your methods are OSHA compliant. Contact us to learn more.

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