The Assisted Conception Unit at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee has purchased an Ion Science Tiger handheld volatile organic compound (VOC) detector in adherence with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFEA) regulations for air quality in tissue laboratories and to ensure optimum culture conditions for embryos. This follows an independent external review that recommended the facility upgrade to a more sensitive photoionisation detector (PID) that measured VOC levels in parts per billion (ppb).
Established in 1984, the Assisted Conception Unit at Ninewells Hospital is one of the oldest IVF facilities in the UK. It performs numerous investigations to ascertain why couples are not getting pregnant naturally and try to overcome fertility issues to achieve a pregnancy. Every year it has an average of 400 cycles of IVF and ICSI, and a further 250 cycles utilising previously frozen embryos.
With even low levels of VOCs potentially affecting embryo development, the Ninewells Hospital's Assisted Conception Unit regularly monitors VOCs in its laboratories to minimise contaminants, maintain the best possible conditions and help ensure successful IVF outcomes.
In the UK, assisted reproduction is regulated and governed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Philip Milne from the Assisted Conception Unit at Ninewells Hospital explains: "The aim of the HFEA regulation is to implement standards of air quality in laboratories where tissues are prepared for use in humans, including assisted conception facilities. Part of this is measuring and maintaining the air found in tissue laboratories with particle and microbial counts being done on a regular basis."
Human embryos are very sensitive to the environment and although the incubators offer a relatively clean area for culture, sperm, eggs and embryos have to be handled and processed within the laboratory, exposing them to harmful VOCs which can impact embryo development. Whilst most Assisted Conception Units will have air purification technology or HEPA filters, these do not eliminate VOCs.
As a result, the Assisted Conception Unit uses a PID to monitor VOC levels within its laboratory. However, the facility's previous VOC instrument measured in parts per million (ppm) but an independent external review recommended it was replaced with a more sensitive ppb instrument such as the Ion Science Tiger, which is able to detect very low levels of VOCs.
The Tiger boasts a market measurement range of 1 ppb to 20,000 ppm. It is easy to set up and provides advanced VOC detection and software features. It also provides a response time of just two seconds and can be connected directly to a PC via the USB offering rapid data download capabilities.