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June 2020

Good idea? Or maybe not… 8 Coronavirus trends that have us worried

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Coronavirus Insights

At the beginning of April we published a blog on Coronavirus myths you need to ignore and since then we’ve lived through total lockdown, lockdown level 4 and level 3 from today, the 1st June. 

We hoped that the Coronavirus myths would have abated as more becomes known about the virus, but sadly that doesn't seem to have been the case. We’ve even seen influential international public figures making suggestions regarding Coronavirus that are not only ridiculous, but also extremely dangerous. 

In light of this, we thought we should take a look at some of the things we’ve seen lately in the hygiene market, which may seem like a good idea at first glance, but which - on closer examination - may not be!

1. Why setting your hand sanitiser on fire isn't a good idea:

A couple of  misconceptions around hand sanitisers are that the colour of the flame it produces when it’s ignited will reveal whether or not it’s safe to use, and that hand sanitiser can be “tested” for alcohol-content by setting it on fire

I don’t think I need go much further than saying not only is this extremely dangerous and should not be attempted under any circumstances, but it’s also a waste of money. If you are under any doubts as to the quality or safety of your hand sanitiser, rather don’t buy that particular brand than risk potential injury to yourself or others by setting it alight.

2. Why making your own hand sanitiser isn't a good idea:

We know it was really hard to buy sanitiser when the pandemic hit our shores, as people stockpiled like crazy. But making your own?

We’d like to caution that far from ‘just adding alcohol and a few other ingredients’, making your own hand sanitiser at home is not as simple as some social media sites may suggest. You’ll struggle to find some of the ingredients (like alcohol for starters!) and substituting ingredients with something “similar” could result in a sanitiser that is either dangerous, ineffective or both. It’s far safer to wash your hands with soap and dry your hands properly than try to make your own hand sanitiser.

3. Why buying hand sanitiser from someone outside of the hygiene industry may not be a good idea: 

The lockdown level 4 rules state that all business premises must provide hand sanitiser for use by customers and employees at the entrance to the store, and there have already been reports of South Africans complaining of skin rashes caused by exposure to the chemicals in sanitiser. There is concern that some of the new manufacturers in the market may not be using the right kind of alcohol or emollients, and because the industry isn't regulated (as I mentioned in my previous post 8 questions to ask your Disinfection Services provider) some products may not have barcodes or contact numbers listed on the packaging - meaning that you’re out of luck if something goes wrong.

If you do start experiencing a reaction from the hand sanitiser at your local shops, it may not be because of dodgy ingredients but simply because rubbing over 60% alcohol - even if it's high-quality alcohol - into your skin isn’t natural. However, it IS the new normal.

4. Why disinfection spraying tunnels (for humans) aren’t a good idea:

Sanitation tunnels are popping up everywhere, including the entrance to your favourite supermarket, the Gautrain, and some taxi ranks. Whilst disinfecting vehicles, equipment and spaces is a powerful weapon in the fight against COVID-19, the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that “spraying individuals with disinfectants (such as in a tunnel…) is not recommended under any circumstances” and Diversey (a global leader in infection prevention solutions) also cautions against using sanitation spraying tunnels for people.

Their reasoning is simple: chemical disinfectant solutions are not meant to be inhaled, come into contact with the eyes, or be taken in through the mouth, as doing so can cause serious health issues. This is one of the main reasons all Initial technicians are equipped with ventilators when performing Disinfection services.

In addition to the health and safety risk, disinfectants are designed for use on hard, non porous surfaces (not on clothes or skin) and whilst they make clothing damp, there is no evidence that they impact the viral load. 

And finally, people who are infected with COVID-19 will still carry  the virus in their upper respiratory tracts and saliva. Applying a disinfectant to the skin does nothing to address the virus that an infected person carries inside their body.

5. Why sanitising the street probably isn't a good idea:

Along with disinfection spraying tunnels, sanitation, large-scale disinfection efforts are becoming commonplace. Iran, China, Italy, South Korea and (closer to home) Stellenbosch have all employed street-sanitisation as a way to slow the spread of the virus. But does it work, or is it just a waste of taxpayers money?

The WHO doesn’t recommend it, going so far as to say “spraying or fumigation of outdoor spaces, such as streets or marketplaces, is also not recommended to kill the COVID-19 Virus or other pathogens because disinfectant is inactivated by dirt or debris and it is not feasible to manually clean and remove all organic matter from such spaces. Moreover, spraying porous surfaces such as sidewalks… would be even less effective.

Commonly touched surfaces such as handrails and road-crossing buttons are more likely sources of infection but - inline with the argument above - would have to be cleaned before being sanitised.  

6. Why fogging with bleach might not be a good idea:

As we discussed in our previous blog post 8 questions to ask your Disinfection Services provider,  there are a host of new service providers out there, providing Disinfection services, and some of them are simply using diluted bleach. That’s not to say that bleach doesn't work as a disinfectant: past studies have shown that common household disinfectants, including soap or a diluted bleach solution, can deactivate coronaviruses on indoor surfaces.

However,  bleach is highly irritating to mucous membranes, which means that people exposed to sprayed disinfectants - especially the workers who spray them - are at risk of respiratory troubles, amongst other ailments.  An October 2019 study found that nurses who regularly used disinfectants to clean surfaces were at higher risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and a 2017 study linked exposure to disinfectants to asthma to adults in Germany. 

Another critical thing to remember about bleach if your provider IS using it as a disinfectant, is that it is easily inactivated by organic material. According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, bleach also decomposes under heat and light; and reacts easily with other chemicals. Improper use of bleach, including deviation from recommended dilutions (either stronger or weaker), may reduce its effectiveness for disinfection and can be dangerous  for workers.

7. Why providing Disinfection services without the right PPE/RPE/equipment  isn't a good idea:

We’ve already mentioned that bleach irritates mucous membranes, the skin and the airways, and so workers who are spraying it and other chemical disinfectants must be protected with full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).  

This means wearing a respirator, and not just a mask  under a face shield to prevent breathing in the airborne molecules of disinfectants. It also means using fit-for-purpose ULV fogging machines, rather than repurposed pesticide sprayers (which we have seen some companies using). Using a pesticide sprayer means that whatever disinfectant they are using will be sprayed in large enough droplets to make everything wet, potentially damaging equipment and surfaces. Read more on the 8 things you should be asking your Disinfection Service provider here.

8. Why wearing your mask under your nose isn't a good idea:

I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate on this one, but in case I do, check out our blog post on 10 things you absolutely need to know about wearing a mask.

Make sure that whatever you do, you practice the same hygiene advice we’ve been giving since the beginning: wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them properly, stay home if you are sick, practice social distancing, make sure to cover your mouth if you sneeze or cough, wear your mask properly, and engage with reputable, professional hygiene service providers. #BeSureBeSafe

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Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at www.initial.co.za. Life outside of Rentokil mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned eleven, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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