The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has led to adaptive and rushed cleaning practices that have some health experts concerned. Executives are abiding by CDC guidelines to protect employees while also protecting the general public and avoiding liabilities. Cleaning practices have accelerated from a standard sanitization of restrooms every 4 hours to cleaning restrooms every 2 hours, and common areas such as elevators and lobbies are cleaned 6-8 times a day now. There are new cleaning standards that put an emphasis on increased frequency and increased focus on sanitization and disinfection. Disinfectants that have a kill claim for the novel coronavirus are now used more frequently, and a lot of the chemicals on List N that are used have not been thoroughly tested to conclude their effectiveness for controlling infections and if they are safe for human health. Limited studies have caused concerns that some of the chemicals used for killing coronavirus cause an increased risk for neurological and dermatological problems, and have negative impacts on respiratory health (including risk for asthma and reproductive effects). Considering coronavirus is a respiratory virus this is an alarming issue that needs to be addressed when looking at new cleaning protocols in the midst of the pandemic and re-opening of the country.
There are alternative ways to kill off the virus approved by the CDC that carry less potential health risks, such as using 70% rubbing alcohol rather than potent chemicals in small heavy-traffic places. The disinfection methods are also proving a concern to some health experts. Using electrostatic sprayers may have potential risks that haven't been studied, and few of the disinfectants on List N have been approved for aerosolizing or misting. More research needs to be done by the EPA to determine if sprayers and foggers are effective against Covid-19. Using toxic chemicals in enclosed areas with poor ventilation (such as high-rises that recirculate air) greatly increases exposure to cleaning agents and puts those cleaning and inside the building at risk. Custodians with pre-existing conditions, such as immune disorders or migraine sufferers, can experience memory loss, headaches, seizures, and other negative health problems. Repeated and extended exposures, from an increase frequency in cleaning and the use of stronger chemicals, can make these negative health effects even worse and lead to neuro-immune sensitization and intolerances to common drugs and chemicals. As we continue to test new technologies to combat the coronavirus, it is imperative that we put an emphasis on the health of custodians that are hard at work every day. It's important to focus on fact-based technologies that are applied correctly, and that the health of the general public and custodians is a bigger priority than using the cheapest cleaning method that may not adhere to CDC guidelines. As the country continues to re-open it's crucial to constantly examine our cleaning methods and make sure to adapt when necessary.
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