Are Disinfectants Safe to Use?

Are Disinfectants Safe to Use?

Disinfectants and sanitizers have become a hot commodity these days. Despite almost 9 months of COVID, it is not unusual to see empty shelves for these cleaning products in stores. But, are these chemicals, many with strong smells, and complicated chemical ingredients truly harmless? Are they entirely safe to use? And what about the side effects? We will briefly discuss these below.

Coronavirus still has many unknowns, and while the virus is spread more commonly through respiratory droplets than surfaces, it is still possible to transmit the virus from contaminated surfaces. CDC has stated that the COVID virus can be killed with the use of the right products. The Environmental Protection Agency has also approved a list of disinfectants.

As a result, the use of disinfecting cleaners, wipes, and sprays has risen worldwide, but there is also concern about the health risks these may pose especially with children and those with reactive diseases like asthma. It is also unknown if the sterility of the environment, where the cleaning products are killing all bacteria, many of them are harmless or even important for normal human body function, will lead to more autoimmune or allergic conditions.

Is Hand Sanitizer Safe?


It’s important to read the label of the sanitizer bottles which should be at least 60% alcohol, according to the CDC. Due to this high concentration of alcohol, do not put these bottles in significant heat especially in the car where the heat can cause the bottle to light on fire. It is also important to not place hand sanitizer on the hands and then expose them to fire or open flames since that increases risk for burns. Despite these cautions, it is very important to use hand sanitizers to keep the hands cleans since that is a major route of transmission of diseases.

Ingredients of Concern in Disinfectants:


Beware of bleach and quaternary ammonium compounds in the disinfectants, which can cause significant lung irritation with inhalation, and can lead to reactions like shortness of breath, coughing, and severe allergic reactions. It is important to use these products in well ventilated areas to minimize exposure to toxic fumes. It is always a good idea to wear gloves and avoid direct skin contact as well.

Disinfectants and Children:


Children are at a greater risk when disinfectants are used. Since they tend to rub their hands on surfaces and then eat with them or put them on their faces, it is almost more important to keep surfaces clean around children. However, to minimize exposure to strong chemicals like quaternary ammonium compounds, it is recommended to wipe the surface after use of these disinfecting chemicals. Due to exposure to chemicals, children are also at risk for developing allergic reactions, and may have increased risk for atopic conditions like asthma or food allergies.

Using Foggers:


Foggers have become a popular method to disinfect larger areas by spraying with a disinfecting mist. However, this is not recommended for places that are crowded like schools and offices, especially if adequate time is not allowed to allow the chemicals to disperse. American Lung Association warns that spraying can cause irritation to the mucus membranes, especially lungs with breathing these chemicals, and should be used with caution.

Safety tips for Using Disinfectants:


You should purchase disinfectants that are approved by the EPA, and follow safety precautions to avoid exposure and allergic reactions, which is especially important around children. It is also important to follow proper storage instructions, and avoid exposure to sensitive mucous membranes like the eyes and mouth. Hand hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent spread of viruses, including COVID. Be safe this winter, especially with so much time that is spent indoors, by following good cleaning practices.
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Dr. Jawad is a practicing physician with extensive administrative experience, who has firsthand knowledge of running a medical practice and working in employed models. WoW Health aligns incentives for the healthcare ecosystem so all stakeholders benefit from transparent and direct relationship between patients and medical service providers.