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Cleaning with Disinfactant Spray 2

 

With COVID-19 still very much part of our everyday experience, it is important to have information and the right products to keep our surroundings and each other safe.

Along these lines, there are important distinctions to be drawn between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting surfaces and understanding the differences is an important step to ensuring we properly match products to the situation at hand.

The fact that the demand for disinfectants is at an all-time high shows that many people are using these chemicals to combat COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discusses the use of disinfectants to effectively kill germs, including the coronavirus on surfaces, but also points to the importance of cleaning surfaces first to remove germs, dirt, and impurities. The CDC goes on to explain that although cleaning does not kill germs, “it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.” So cleaning is an important first step before disinfecting.

Sanitizers and disinfectants are classified as antimicrobial pesticides – chemicals used to destroy or suppress harmful microorganisms. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) draws a distinction between the two, however, with disinfectants meeting higher effectiveness criteria against viruses. Indeed, only disinfectants, not sanitizers, are included on the EPA’s list of products suggested for use against the coronavirus [EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)].

The EPA also provides valuable guidance for Safe & Effective Disinfectant Use and stresses the importance of following product directions for user safety and product efficacy. One eye-opening instruction is adhering to the amount of time a product needs to be in contact with a surface to be effective, which, according to the EPA, maybe as long as several minutes.

Safe and Effective

The Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell also provides resources and tools to help citizens, organizations, businesses, and industries find safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. Particularly now, as the demand for disinfectants has soared, the Institute is sharing health concerns surrounding disinfectants.

“Disinfectants kill living organisms and, while that’s good for protecting yourself from the virus, you don’t want to harm your health in other ways,” says Lab Director Jason Marshall of TURI. “Some products contain quaternary ammonium compounds (quats), which trigger or cause asthma. Bleach can cause respiratory, skin, and eye irritation.” (Read TURI’s article, Disinfectants Can Kill the Coronavirus, but Can Also Harm Health, to learn more.)

TURI encourages the public to be proactive with selecting disinfectants from the EPA’s List N that contain safer active ingredients, such as hydrogen peroxide, alcohol (isopropyl or ethanol), citric acid, and lactic acid.

“There are many products on the EPA List N with safer active ingredients and we list a number of them on our website,” notes Jason. “It’s also important to read and follow product use directions and know whether PPE is needed during product use. We cannot overemphasize the importance of not mixing cleaning and disinfecting chemicals. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia produces toxic chemicals that may be lethal.”

Visit TURI’s website for additional safe disinfecting guidance.

People versus Surfaces

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates items such as hand sanitizers, stresses that disinfectant sprays and wipes are meant for surfaces and “are not intended for use on humans or animals.” Find more information about hand sanitizers on the FDA website, including a Hand Sanitizer Quiz.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 

A list of safer active ingredients is available on the EPA’s website and the public may search the EPA’s List N to find products with these safer ingredients using the EPA List N Search Tool. Select the Other Search Options radio button and then the Active Ingredients(s) dropdown to begin a search. Select a safer active ingredient from the list to return products that include that selected ingredient. When searching for products with safer active ingredients, make sure the product also does not contain other active ingredients which are not on the safer active ingredient list. An example of this could be searching for ethyl alcohol and finding products that also contain less-desirable active ingredients, like quats.

Take note of the EPA product registration number for simplified product identification:

EPA List N Search Tool picAs a reminder, disinfectants distributed and used in Massachusetts also must be registered by the Massachusetts Pesticide Board Subcommittee. Use the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Pesticide Program website search tool to locate allowable products by EPA registration number.

Resources on Statewide Contract

Several months ago with the onset of the pandemic and high demand for disinfectants, the Operational Services Division broadened the FAC85 Environmentally Preferable Cleaning Products, Program, Equipment, and Supplies Statewide Contract to include non-EPP product offerings to ensure public entities had access to these needed products. However, particularly as supplies have become more readily available, buyers are encouraged to seek environmentally preferable product (EPP) options whenever possible as these choices are recommended based on public health and environmental considerations.

“It’s important to protect human health and the environment by avoiding the toxic risks associated with the use of disinfectants,” advises Julia Wolfe, Director of Environmental Purchasing at OSD. “Look for disinfectants offering safer active ingredients and remember to clean surfaces first and use products that are backed by Green Seal, UL ECOLOGO, or the EPA’s Safe Choice program.”

When reaching out to FAC85 vendors, ask about safer active ingredient options and refer to EPA product registration numbers when ordering.

OSD’s list of PPE vendors are another source for disinfectants and other COVID-19 related supplies. We encourage buyers to learn more about the Commonwealth’s Environmentally Preferable Products Procurement Program at mass.gov/epp.

Be safe!

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