New Technologies Require Homework & Cleaning

We always embrace innovation and remain on the lookout for more effective, labor-saving equipment we can recommend to our clients. The keyword is effective, as we must all remain vigilant in separating fact from fiction. If a company can’t provide verified scientific evidence and the approval of a reputable or authoritative certifying body, it is best to remain on the sidelines until the product or process is thoroughly vetted. 

However, the single biggest red flag between truth and bunk is any disinfectant or disinfecting equipment claiming it replaces the need to clean first. If you hear that, the conversation should be over.  All hard surfaces MUST be cleaned before they can be disinfected.

With that in mind, let us review a few of the technologies that have come into vogue since COVID-19.  We will review their claims, some realities, and above all, the remaining requirement that surfaces must be cleaned first.

Electrostatic Sprayers

This technology works by using equipment that positively charges the disinfectant’s ions, which are then attracted to the negatively charged ions of nonporous surfaces. It is promoted as effective for hard to reach areas as the spray “envelopes” objects like doorknobs with a single spray as well as economical since the charged chemical will only land on negative surfaces where there is no disinfectant. However, not all disinfectants on the EPA Covid-19 approved N-List are approved for use through an electrostatic sprayer:

  • Disinfectants approved by the EPA for use in an electrostatic sprayer must have it listed on the label.  If it is not listed on the label, then it is not proven effective against Covid-19.
  • For positive ions to marry the negative, there can be nothing between them, i.e., cleaning to remove loose dirt and debris must be done before spraying.  
  • There are several disinfectants that are now EPA approved to be used through electrostatic sprayers.  Make sure yours is one of them if you use this delivery method.

Fogging

We have all seen what seems like nearly infinite pictures of custodial technicians in full PPE gear, armed with foggers (also knowns as fumigators or misters), spraying everything from the inside of airplanes to streets. While this looks impressive, we should not lose sight of the facts:

  • Only disinfectants that specifically list fogging on their labels are approved by the EPA for use in foggers/misters.
  • The CDC, EPA, and WHO do not recommend using fogging/misting to combat SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, based on potential health risks and the fact that surface areas not in the direct fog stream may not be disinfected.
  • Disinfectants, no matter how “safe,” are still classified by the EPA as pesticides. Many experts have expressed concern regarding forcefully spraying any disinfectant into the air, where it can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory systems of humans and animals.
  • There are questions surrounding the effect of the runoff from fogged/misted disinfectants on the environment.
  • Fogging of disinfectants should never be done outside, where the CDC and others have determined they are not effective and may do more harm than good.
  • Fogging is for disinfecting—only. Surfaces still must be cleaned prior to fogging.

UV Light

This is a potentially great new disinfecting technology, especially for use in healthcare settings. However, here again, there are considerations:

  • There is no regulating body overseeing UV light equipment or the disinfection process, so it is important to know which products and methods work and which may not. 
  • UV light is dangerous if it comes in contact with skin or eyes. In fact, according to the FDA, UV lamps “used for disinfection purposes may pose potential health and safety risks depending on the UVC wavelength, dose, and duration of radiation exposure. The risk may increase if the unit is not installed properly or used by untrained individuals.”
  • UV light must be used in an empty room that cannot be inhabited for a specified time.
  • UV light does not replace cleaning, even or especially when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19, because as the FDA states, “The virus or bacterium will not be inactivated if it is covered by dust or soil, embedded in porous surface or on the underside of a surface.”

Antimicrobial Surface Coatings

These are coatings that profess to disinfect surfaces for an extended period of time, anywhere from 48 hours up to seven days. Currently, despite many advertisements that might lead one to think otherwise, only one such coating, SurfaceWise2 manufactured by Allied BioScience, has been granted EPA’s COVID-19 emergency waiver approval and only for extremely limited use: It may be used for one year by American Airlines in airplanes that fly through Texas and in two physical therapy clinics located in Texas only. In addition, while the coating has shown promise:

  • Some experts have expressed concern over potential skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation caused by contact with the coating and its spray mode of application.
  • The EPA maintains, “The overall benefit of using such products in reducing the potential exposure from surfaces, such as in mass transit systems, is not yet understood or recognized by EPA.” 
  • Allied Bioscience itself cautions that SurfaceWise2 is “not a replacement for routine cleaning and disinfection.” 

It is exciting times for our industry, but with so much information and misinformation out there, it can be a confusing time as well. It’s up to us to do due diligence for ourselves and our customers and to never forget that no matter the technology, without cleaning first, there can be no disinfecting. 

 

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