COVID-19 has precipitated a worrying cleaning trend that’s getting little airtime – excessive exposure to hazardous cleaning and disinfecting chemicals that itself can endanger health. To reassure people about the safety of indoor spaces during the pandemic, some workplaces are turning to unnecessary or even counterproductive cleaning and disinfection methods – a practice the Atlantic calls “hygiene theater.”
The Best Disinfecting Tool is Accurate Information
After physical distancing and mask-wearing, the best tool to combat COVID-19 is accurate information. We have good reason to believe that schools and workplaces don’t need to turn to hazardous methods to effectively clean and disinfect for COVID-19. Consider that:
- COVID-19 is most likely to spread through person-to-person and airborne transmission. In fact, no specific reports of transmission from surface-to-person had been recorded as of the July 9 publication of this World Health Organization report.
- Coronaviruses, such as the COVID-19 virus, are relatively easy to kill on environmental surfaces.
While companies are increasingly asking for or advertising frequent disinfecting, as a general rule only high-touch surfaces (such as door handles and elevator buttons) should be frequently disinfected. Applying the product correctly is also important, as over-using a product will not be more effective at killing the COVID-19 virus and leads to waste and unnecessary chemical exposure.
Foggers Are Poor Choices For Schools and Offices
Application technologies like foggers are being heavily marketed as COVID-19 disinfecting solutions. These are a poor choice for school and office environments – they promote hazardous levels of chemical exposure without any benefit, as there is no evidence that they are more effective than traditional application methods.
As some schools prepare to reopen, administrators should consider that disinfectants can include ingredients linked to asthma, cancer and endocrine disruption. Applying them in excess can create significant health risks for students and staff, including – ironically – serious respiratory disease.
This is an especially grave risk for the 1 in 13 Americans with asthma – a group the CDC has identified as high-risk for COVID-19. Choosing safer proven-effective products, especially those that do not contain asthmagens or respiratory irritants, is critical for protecting high-risk groups. (Green Seal’s list of recommended safer COVID-19 disinfectants is here.)
Hazardous Chemicals May Do More Harm Than Good
Dousing a space in hazardous chemicals won’t necessarily better prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it will lead to significant health risks for those inside. The good news is that there are effective ways disinfect for COVID-19 while protecting health, safety and indoor air quality.
Green Seal’s Safer COVID-19 Disinfecting Guidelines are a free resource for comprehensively protecting the health of building occupants and cleaning personnel during the pandemic. And Green Seal’s public health lead Nina Hwang provides additional information on safe and effective disinfection here.