By Jim Flieler, VP of Sales Canada for Charlotte Products Ltd

As more and more facilities carry on with a new type of infection prevention program, where enemy No. 1 is COVID-19 and hygiene theater is on full display, it’s important to get back to infection control basics. Of course, regular and rigorous cleaning are absolutely instrumental in public health, especially during a global pandemic. And it is also true that the safe and smart use of disinfectants is absolutely key to protecting our buildings against COVID-19. However, we must not forget about the health risks associated with increased and arbitrary use of potent disinfectant chemicals. 

It’s no surprise that health hazards associated with the overuse of toxic cleaning chemicals are also on the rise. In fact, since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic, calls to poison centers in the United States and Canada have increased by as much as 20 percent. A number of studies have been published in the past six months showing a correlation between the frequent use of disinfectants and asthma. Most alarming of all is that the misuse and increased use of disinfection may actually be contributing toward the pandemic. Chronic illnesses, including respiratory illnesses like those linked to exposures to toxic chemicals, increase one’s risk of COVID-19.

Many of our customers and colleagues in the cleaning industry have spent the past decade refining healthier, safer and greener cleaning programs. We can’t let one global pandemic allow us to throw out all that hard work. There are absolutely ways you can continue to have a green and safe cleaning program while also preventing COVID-19 outbreaks in your facility. 

Now that the initial panic of dealing with a pandemic has calmed slightly and the supply chain has settled in, it is the perfect time for you to tweak your COVID-19 response to make sure you are making the best product choices, and exercising safety and caution when it comes to your infection prevention program. Below, we share a few of our tips for effective infection prevention measures that protect the health of all building occupants and staff.

Choose the right product: COVID-19, also known as Sars-CoV-2, is an enveloped virus. Enveloped viruses have a sensitive lipid coating for protection that can be broken relatively easily. Because of the nature of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, it is not usually necessary to choose a disinfectant with a stronger (and often times more toxic) active ingredient than the products you have already chosen for your program. We recommend a hospital grade disinfectant with an EPA or DIN Number used as directed on the product label. 

Follow the label: As always, be sure to read the label completely and follow everything on the label to ensure that you are properly applying your disinfectant. This pertains especially to dilution measures and dwell times. One major area of failure is that custodians often mix a disinfectant solution stronger with good intent thinking that a stronger solution is better. This is not the case, the label indicates that if you follow all of the directions, the disinfectant will eliminate all of the stated pathogens listed on the label. If you dilute it stronger or weaker, you are altering the end result most likely in a negative manner.   

Application: For the application of most disinfectants, we recommend a simple trigger-spray bottle, flip cap bottle or,colour coded charge buckets and micro fibre cloths . We see foggers and other extreme forms of disinfectant application being used, which can cause serious health concerns when the product being applied is breathed in in large quantities by the end user. 

Regardless of the delivery method, you must follow the 5 critical steps of disinfectant security. 

Ventilation: It is important to apply disinfectant in a well-ventilated area. This can be as simple as opening a window when applying disinfectant, or it can entail investing in HVAC systems upgrades and air purifiers. Better air ventilation helps mitigate the exposure to harmful cleaning chemicals, and it can also help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

PPE: Without a doubt, it is imperative to always wear the proper PPE when applying any disinfectant as per the product label and safety data sheet. Please ensure that you have enough PPE for all of your cleaning personnel to wear safely. 

The public will continue to pay close attention to the job we are doing as cleaning industry workers. It is our duty to protect public health, but we should not succumb to pressures and forego our health in an effort to participate in hygiene theater. By communicating clearly with building occupants and staff, and educating them using expertise as frontline workers in this global pandemic, we can protect everyone’s health and establish our vital role in public health.