Disinfectants and the Pandemic: How Much May Be Too Much?

Unfortunately, it took a pandemic such as COVID-19 to awaken the world to the fact that effective cleaning and adequate disinfecting play a vital role in infection prevention. No longer is it a housekeeping function that suffers when budget cuts occur, but rather, professional cleaning is now viewed as an essential one, tasked with keeping people healthy and saving lives.

While this new essential practice is a plus, another side needs to be examined: When it comes to disinfectants, are we overdoing it?

For example, the CDC and other health organizations have determined that the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is far less likely to occur from surface contamination than initially thought. Yet despite this highly publicized finding, the world continues to spray, fog, wipe, and otherwise apply disinfectant to every visible surface, often multiple times a day. Is this necessary—or even responsible?

Are we weighing the slim chance of children and others without compromised immune systems contracting COVID-19 against the known fact that certain disinfectants can cause skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation, especially in confined spaces? 

Misunderstood processes and misguided application procedures are also a factor. For instance, does the general populace understand that when a school says it is “sanitizing,” it could mean they are using a disinfectant, but may not be allowing the full dwell time it needs to disinfect? Are they using a disinfectant that needs to be rinsed versus air dry? Does everyone know that applying a disinfectant on a soiled surface is inadequate? The surface must always be cleaned first and then disinfected.

Sadly, this kind of misinformation and product misuse poses dangers in promoting a false sense of security in facility occupants. Further, many of these traditional disinfectants can be dangerous to the health of the user and the environment.

How About Hand Sanitizers

Then there are the hand sanitizers. How much is too much? Especially considering that many name-brand bottles are refilled with cheaper formulas containing who-knows-what ingredients or that have alcohol levels below or above the recommended 60 to 70 percent deemed effective against the virus. Pre-COVID-19, there were already questions about the overuse of hand sanitizers potentially leading to unstoppable “superbugs.” Since COVID, the EPA has banned up to 178 hand sanitizer formulations, calling them unsafe for human use and recommending many are disposed of using hazardous waste methods. 

Concerns about Waste Issues

Speaking of waste, let us not forget the environment. Before the pandemic, the world was focused and making headway in choosing greener, safer, more sustainable options. Once the pandemic hit, nearly all thought of the planet dried up instantly in favor of using the harshest chemicals that can threaten the health of humans, animals, our land, and our waterways. With this came more disposable plastic—from single use containers to wrapped flatware. There are a lot of products effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are greener than others, just as there are ways to protect against it without overloading our landfills. Again, one wonders how long it might take before we can refocus on helping ensure our planet remains healthy for our children. 

It is recommended that building managers, cleaning professionals, and housekeeping personnel get educated on what works best for your facility, choose products that are the right fit for your building, and train the staff on how to use them properly and safely. In addition, consider the types of disinfectants and sanitizers being used. We mentioned that traditional disinfectants can be harmful to the user and the environment. Citrus-based disinfectants and sanitizers are not. Years of studies have concluded citrus based disinfectants and sanitizes, such as our LEXX® brand, are safe, effective, and environmentally friendly.

ProNatural Brands cleaning products keep surfaces clean and our planet untouched. They are safe and effective. To learn more and how we can help you, click here.

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