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Testing Compressed Air Lines for Microbiological Contamination

reasons. However, this segregation may lead to a false sense of security because it is possible that the environmental air source that feeds into the compressor may contain biological flora similar to that of the manufacturing environment. It could be possibly even higher in microbiological levels if the location of the air compressor is less controlled than that of the manufacturing environment. If the compressed air supply is not properly engineered with filters, dryers, and appropriate gauges, these microbiological inhabitants could eventually reach the product.

Compressor as the Culprit
The compressor itself can function as the culprit by creating a contaminated environment for the product. For example; the compressors prefilters can become overloaded with dust and lint, causing the filter to cease functioning properly, thereby resulting in migration and potential strike-through. Also, there may be a contaminant in the environment which is smaller than the pore size of the pre-filter. Again, this may lead to the inefficiency of the pre-filter.

Microorganisms
A microorganism that is capable of forming a viable colony forming unit (CFU) and which exists within the compressed air line system is called the microbiological particle (MP) as per ISO 8573-4:2001(E). The microbial load on a product is referred to as Bioburden, as per ANSI/AAMI/ISO 11737. The Bioburden can come from various sources, such as human contact, air conditioning systems, the manufacturing process itself, raw materials, and any other vector that the product is exposed to. However, the least likely considered vector for contamination is the compressed air system. Maybe this is because the compressed air network is considered to be a closed system, under high pressure (usually 160 pounds of pressure and greater) and is expected to supply continuous high quality filtered air.

Microorganisms
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