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BSC vs. Barrier Isolator

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Isolation Technology for the 3rd Millennium

Isolation Technology for the 3rd Millennium

BSC vs. Barrier

BSC vs. Barrier

BSC (Class II Biological Safety Cabinet) Technology Barrier Isolator
Laminar flow air wash How?
Total physical barrier + Negative pressure isolation
The solution to pollution is dilution Rule?
Contain, isolate and capture all hazards
Removal of vapor, smoke or heat: exothermic reactions, massive emissions or sterile processing of toxic agents or serious pathogens Best for?
Control & containment of bio-hazards, toxic agents or contamination-sensitive tissue: medical, pharma, biotech and human tissue processing

Well known, readily available, possible to do sterile processing of biohazardous materials, removes massive volumes of smoke & heat  

Expensive to buy, requires much space & electrical power, expensive & complex to install/test/certify, air wash may disturb or contaminate processes, generally requires hard duct-work, requires continuous power and great operator care for effective control of hazardous materials, places a significant load on heating/cooling/ventilation systems, expensive to maintain and operate, large carbon footprint, may require extensive environmental permits, may require specialized engineering and design work prior to purchase, fabrication and installation 
Pros/Cons? Efficient, fail-safe & reliable, compact, flexible, inexpensive, environmentally superior, simple & easy to install, certify & maintain, economical to maintain & operate, no ductwork required, very small carbon footprint, containment even after power fairure and many faults or human error, easy/simple to purchase, install and certify

Newer & less common than hoods, not always best to control massive heat or smoke, not always covered by 20th century standards, regulations and training

For many contemporary applications, barrier isolation glove box enclosures provide simpler, safer, less expensive processing than is possible using BSCs, but when lethal, toxic or biohazardous processing must be done in sterile conditions, this technology is seldom an option.  In some applications, barrier isolation workstations are safer and more practical but may not comply with corporate standards, government regulations or other requirements established or carried over from the 20th century. 

In many R/D, biotech and gmp applications regulatory issues and standards are unlikely to impede implementation of newer, more efficient barrier isolation systems.  In highly regulated medical and pharma applications, it is often easier to apply barrier isolation in applications that have not previously been isolated in a BSC, than in processes where hoods are the typical handling technology in place.  While infrastructure and older standards may pose a challenge, the massive improvement in risk control, cost, ecological control and efficiency may be worth the effort to implement barrier isolation, when it is possible.

In some cases it may be possible to provide the efficiency and reliability of barrier isolation while satisfying old requirements by combining barrier isolation glove box systems with laminae hoods or cleanrooms.  In situations where sterile aseptic conditions are essential, positive pressure Barrier Isolation Glove Box enclosures are likely to provide more reliable isolation, if they are allowed under current standards.  In the long run, it seems likely that standards and regulations will be updated, but they should be carefully checked prior to changing your isolation approach.  If NSF 49 or USP 797 or other standards that favor laminar air wash technology are required it is critical to consult regulatory authorities before considering Barrier Isolator technology instead of a Class II BSC.

A few of the reasons why organizations move from Class II BSCs to barrier isolation include:

  • Eliminating the cost of custom hood/enclosure engineering, design and fabrication 
  • Eliminating cost of ducts, fans, heating/AC and ventilation system upgrades for these sources
  • Reducing HVAC / energy expense from additional building exhaust and related heating or cooling
  • Eliminating new roof penetration and exhaust environmental permits and related costs and delays
  • Reducing maintenance & operational headaches from work in, on and around stationary enclosures
  • Reducing or eliminating lighing issues for work under vent hoods (clear dome uses room lighing)
  • Reducing floorspace and counterspace required due to small footprint (4.8 square feet)
  • Reducing downtime and maintenance cost for station access (hood remove & replace times < 2 minutes)
  • Reducing filter media and replacement labor costs ( HEPA cartridges last longer, and cost < $80 )
  • Reducing risk, exposure, insurance and compliance costs by means of fail-safe performance
  • Reducing direct energy cost ( power requirement < 0.3 KWH per 40 hr. week for Safe-T-Dome™)

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