Concentrating On Chlorine
A common question often asked by customers is why add chlorine (or a biocide) to an animal drinking system when municipal water supplies are already chlorinated?
One of the reasons for the addition is that the chlorine concentration in the source water from the municipal facility tends to dissipate as a function of time as well as water purity, turbidity, and organic content. Another is that the pre-filtration efforts employed at the animal site may, if carbon filters are used, remove chlorine from the source water. When chlorine is added back into the animal drinking water it is usually in concentrations that approximate those recommended by the national governing body for human drinking water. Note, too, that virtually every human drinking water distribution system in the world employs chlorine (or chloramine) for the control of microbes, viruses, and organic impurities. Unless it is filtered out, chlorine will typically be present to some extent in any sample of drinking water. A water quality test is generally performed to determine the amount, if any, of chlorine to inject into the animal drinking system to achieve the desired level of disinfection.
As a disinfectant, chlorine is efficient, safe and cost effective for reducing germs, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens in the drinking water. Pathogens can be of particularly great concern for laboratory animal research due to variables unknowingly introduced into studies, colonies, or facilities. Water-borne bacteria are the most problematic variables to control. In watering systems, bacteria can form colonies of biofilm on interior pipe surfaces, reservoirs and filters which can then be controlled or mitigated through the use of chlorine. Maintaining low levels of free chlorine in the drinking water are sufficient for oxidizing ‘planktonic’ bacteria. At these low levels, chlorine poses no risk to the research models. If needed, a higher chlorine dose can be administered during a sanitization process. During these times, the drinking water should not be exposed to animals.
Chlorine in water can be present in two different forms; free chlorine and chloramines. Free chlorine is what is available to oxidize or kill water-borne pathogens. Chlorine initially injected into the drinking water is in the form of free chlorine as it is available to oxidize bacteria. Most facilities have found that concentrations of about 2-4 parts per million of free chlorine are effective. For perspective, one part per million is the equivalent of a drop or two in a bathtub full of water (about 200 liters). Chloramines (also known as combined chlorine) are formed when free chlorine reacts with ammonia or organic nitrogen. Although beneficial as a secondary biocide, Chloramines require significantly more time and are not as effective at killing harmful organisms. Therefore, if adding chlorine to your animal drinking water system, free chlorine should be maintained at an appropriate level.
Vivarium installations worldwide, some spanning decades of research, have successfully employed chlorinated drinking water in their studies. They have found that when protocols are followed no chlorine-related variables affected the research models’ physiology.
Feature Installation: Automation And Ownership Breeds Freedom
The success of the Edstrom Automated Watering Systems (AWS) in one of the United Kingdom’s most prominent medical research facility is a testament to that institution’s dedication to personnel safety and animal welfare. The staff sees taking ownership of the process as being key to their successful implementation of AWS, in separating factual data from anecdotes and in dispelling the misinformation about cage flooding.
THE SEARCH BEGINS
The decision to implement an automated watering system in their proposed state-of-the-art research center was reached only after much contemplation. Site visits to vivariums in Ivy League institutions in the US and other renowned Edstrom-equipped animal laboratories demonstrated to the team that, with committed husbandry support, they could meet the lofty injury reduction objectives they had set for their staff and for the welfare of their animal population. The proposed system was not a new technology but its relevance to recent advancements in IVC, robotics, and genetically modified research models, coupled with the need to reduce operating expenses and prevent repetitive stress injuries, was demonstrable; a good fit for their advanced scientific studies and commitment to worker safety.
Today, after taking control of the process, keeping meticulous notes, and gathering data, the Medical Research Council (MRC) in Cambridge has high praise for their Edstrom watering system. A recent feedback poll completed by seasoned animal care technicians, scientists and vivarium mangers at the facility reaffirmed the organization’s decision. An overwhelming majority of the staff would not want to change the current Edstrom system or revert back to bottles.
THE PATH TO AWS
The UK facility was designed to house breeding and experimental colonies in barriered, disease-free conditions. The aim was to provide the highest standard of modern transgenic research models and resources to support the current and future experimental science programs of the laboratory. This approach significantly influenced the design of the building.
It was decided to follow established best practices based upon their own investigations and site visits to similar laboratories. They examined all the options, ultimately making their selection, from conception to completion, based on their preconceived plans and goals.
The path to automated watering started with the primary goal of assuring worker safety and animal welfare. The efficacy of the system in reducing repetitive stress injuries such as work related upper limb disorders (WRULD) had already been well established, as had the certainty that the technology reduces the number of variables in a study.
The designers saw significant value in exploring real world scenarios from the facilities they visited to demonstrate effective ways to set boundaries and take ownership. As this would be viewed as a model facility in the UK, it was very important to refine the process – make it their own and keep records of everything.
In the grand scheme, AWS represents a very small expenditure in comparison to other building systems in the lab such as the HVAC and cage washing equipment, yet is so important in reducing variables, reducing injuries and helping make the workplace pleasant. It also helps to improve animal welfare by allowing staff more time to spend with the subjects.
MAKING THE CASE
Veteran workers in the vivarium will attest to the dramatic changes affecting their profession during the last decade with advancements in caging, robotics and automated processes along with the increased number of genetically modified research models. Altogether, adopting AWS was viewed as a significant step to reducing risk whilst improving efficiency and consistency.
The case for automated watering was compelling. Nonetheless, no vivarium technology has generated more misconceptions. What was open to question was the anecdotal information relating to cage flooding. Though they had seen for themselves that similar systems had significantly reduced the occurrence of cage flooding in comparison to the use of bottles, it would be up to them to perfect the process.
Getting team members to take real ownership of their processes and carefully document every instance of leakage and its cause would expose the true statistics about this major concern. The management and staff alike committed to the successful use of automated watering and adapted to make the process more efficient.
THE TRUTH IS HERE
Regarding staff vigilance in documenting any incidence of cage floods – each time a valve was found to leak, it was recorded along with details of the cause and any welfare consequences. Meticulous record keeping has served to dispel the common anecdotal notion that automated watering was more prone to flooding than bottles. What they found was that their system served as a perfect complement to other automated processes in the vivarium, but that for it to be effective it was necessary to take ownership of the process and make it a part of the culture. Doing so greatly reduces the incidence of valve leaks that compromise animal welfare.
As a result of their implementation success, approximately 90% of the IVC’s in the new building are connected to the system.
OWNING THE PROCESS
As anticipated, over the course of becoming acclimated to the new system, the staff experienced a significant reduction in the labour requirements over the use of bottles and witnessed the virtual elimination of repetitive stress injuries. In addition, cage flooding incidents were reduced to statistically insignificant levels in comparison to that of the bottle watering method. Even with their success, however, the team continues to refine the system and make subtle improvements.
In taking control of the process the team also made a number of other changes in their SOP, all geared toward optimizing the process and controlling variables in the operation. For example, they reduced the flush interval of the rack flushing, changing the flush timing to coincide with morning welfare checks. The team modified the high flow alarm for urgent staff response, they changed the type of bedding /nesting material and reduced the amount of bedding.
Several other practical solutions were put into place to ensure risk reduction measures were instituted and carefully tracked. Some of these solutions included modifying the cage and grommets as well as valve inspection/cleaning, checking SOPs with regular inspections for damage or leaks, cage checking, and water sampling.
CAGE LEAKING: BY THE NUMBERS
The study covered a period of 930 days (December 30, 2009 to July 19, 2012). Assumed average cage use for the period = 6,000 cages.
This is expressed as 5,580,000 cage days: (930 days x 6000 cages = 5,580,000 cage days)
There were a total of 11 failures which resulted in animal fatalities*; 1 failure for every 507,272 cage days: (5,580,000/11 = 1 in 507,272) less than one in a half million (0.0002%). (Two ten thousandths of one percent on a cage-day basis.)
GENERAL FAILURE (damp bedding):
There were a total of 132 general failures (damp bedding, etc) during this same period; 1 failure for every 42,273 cage days or 0.0024%
"We have seen only two fatal incidents in the last year." This equates to a statistical average of 0.000091%; an improvement of over 215%.
*Most failures proved to be behavioral related – animals stuffing bedding in the valve. Less often leaks were caused by physical damage to valve.
Designing with animal welfare and staff safety as their highest priorities, many decisions were made in selecting and installing equipment for the new vivarium. The staff looked at all of the available options, made site visits to vivariums with automated equipment and made the commitment to adopt stringent SOPs to ensure the safety of the animals from cage flooding and the elimination of injuries to the staff. Over time the staff got more efficient at using the equipment, at gathering data and at modifying the system to fit their situation. When the facility staff compared the results after their initial study to what was started with they realized they had made the right choice. The expectations of their Edstrom system to improve the safety of the staff, to bolster the welfare of the animals and to reduce cost and time, fully met their expectations.
The monitoring capabilities of Pulse, one of the industry’s most feature-packed environmental monitoring programs, have expanded to include Internet Protocol Sensor (IP Sensor) Management. The IP Sensor makes monitoring remote rooms and devices such as refrigerators and freezers, easy and cost effective. With an IP Sensor, up to 50 wireless probes can be seamlessly monitored from a single Pulse system anywhere in the world where there is internet access. This means that any cages taken into investigators’ labs can now be easily monitored by the main Pulse system without the need for an additional controller or node. You can hand them a sensor and a point manager as they go off site with the cage, plug it in to an ethernet connection in their lab, and then keep all of the records for that cage in one system. Even set alarm parameters to call the investigator’s staff.
Q: Do you have a device(s) that can be used for monitoring temperature and humidity as well as light?
A: Yes, in addition to Edstrom’s networked solutions, the Data Logger is a low cost, easy to use product that can monitor and record temperature, humidity, and light. Mobile, compact, and flexible, the Data Logger can easily connect to a computer to download critical data or communicate that data through an array of graphs and charts. The flexible logging interval can range from once per minute to once every two days. The Data Logger comes in a compact stainless steel enclosure for harsh environments.
The Data Logger software walks users through new session setup addressing such factors as logging interval, room to deploy Data Logger in, and the date and time you want to start collecting data. When starting a logging session, a detailed description can be assigned making it easy to identify the purpose of the session. The software will record the serial number and location of the Data Logger, keeping track of what room each device is in. Based on the parameters selected, the software will remind the user when it’s time to collect each unit.
Q: What trends are you seeing in remote laboratory instrument monitoring?
A: As technology is changing rapidly, particularly in the way information is gathered and disseminated via smart phone and new tablet devices, laboratories are looking for the best methods to handle that information. We see the need to decrease dependence on specialized equipment such as dedicated controllers or input devices in order to reduce the cost of the system, making it more universally acceptable and easier to support. The objective is to reduce cost and increase the amount of communication and collaboration of laboratory staff.
Edstrom Receives Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year
Edstrom received the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Grand Prize Award for manufacturers in the medium-sized category. During a gala, black-tie event held February 23, 2012 in Milwaukee, the winners were selected on the basis of their manufacturing excellence, innovation, financial performance, management philosophy, environmental stewardship and community support. The judges comprised an independent panel of experts representing industry, education, and the public sector. We are proud of being recognized for our achievements and wish to thank our thousands of customers worldwide who place their trust in Edstrom to help safeguard the well-being of their research models and the integrity of their scientific data.
Welcome To The Team
Gina joined Edstrom in February 2012 as a Sales Consultant (New Jersey/New York) after spending 12 years in the lab animal field as a facility and research manager at the University of Pennsylvania and Wake Forest Medical, and as a vendor in the lab animal industry. Gina has a Master’s degree, is a graduate of the Institute for Lab Animal Management, and has the Certified Manager Animal Resources (CMAR) program. She is on both the NJ AALAS and LAMA boards. Gina lives with her husband Joe, son Connor, and her dog Rugby. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org