Last Summer, I warned of a dangerous trend of over-disinfecting buildings to reassure people about safety amid the pandemic – with minimal effectiveness at reducing virus spread and significant risks to people’s health from toxic chemicals. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its guidance to confirm that regular cleaning is preferable to disinfecting most of the time.
When is disinfecting appropriate? The CDC now says to disinfect when someone confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 has been in the building within the past 24 hours.
This is the same guidance Green Seal provided last Summer in our Safer Guidelines for COVID-19 Disinfecting for Schools and Workplaces, a free public resource that is now being implemented in more than 1 billion square feet of building space, including by Green Seal-certified cleaning services.
Why Disinfecting Can Harm Instead of Help
It has been clear for some time that dousing a space in hazardous disinfecting chemicals won’t do much to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There are two main reasons for this: COVID-19 is much more likely to spread through person-to-person and airborne transmission than it is through surface-to-person transmission, and coronaviruses are relatively easy to kill on surfaces with plain old soap and water (or regular cleaning solutions).
There is a natural instinct to turn to the harshest chemicals available to attack a nasty virus, but the CDC’s new guidance should reassure us all that we can follow the science to avoid a dangerous reliance on disinfection. Doing so will avoid health risks ranging from cancer to serious respiratory disease – an especially grave risk for vulnerable populations such as children and the 1 in 13 Americans with asthma.
Not All Disinfectants are Created Equal
For the times when disinfecting is appropriate, some disinfecting products are safer than others. Green Seal has curated U.S. EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus to help you identify safer ones.
Unlike other active ingredients commonly found in disinfectants, the active ingredients we recommend are not linked to asthma, cancer, endocrine disruption, DNA damage or skin irritation. Find our list of recommended ingredients and products here.