Peracetic acid is a component of an equilibrium mixture that includes acetic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and water. Although it was first reported in 1902, not until years later did Greenspan and MacKellar find it to be bactericidal at 0.001%, fungicidal at 0.003%, and sporicidal at 0.30%.’ There are no specific data explaining how peracetic acid actually destroys the cell; it has been speculated that it functions like other peroxides and oxidizing agents. Block suggests that it destroys the chemosmotic function of the lipoprotein cytoplasmic membrane through dislocation or rupture of the cell wall.
Peracetic acid is sporicidal at low temperatures, and it remains effective in the presence of some organic material. Sprossig stated that peracetic acid has advantages for disinfection and sterilization not found in any other agent. Block states that, “It would be desirable to have a chemical with the attributes of hydrogen peroxide-effective germicidal and sterilizing capabilities, no harmful decomposition products, and infinite water solubility-but with greater lipid solubility and freedom from deactivation by catalases and peroxidases. Such a compound exists. It is peracetic acid.” Fraser adds that, “A prime advantage of peracetic acid is that it is a nonfoaming, water-soluble liquid that is fast acting and nonderivatising, as well as environmentally accepted.”