Surface Safety – Do You Know What You Are Buying?

  • Save

“Last week Education MEC for the Eastern Cape, Fundile Gade ordered legal action against a company that supplied sanitisers to Makaula Senior Secondary School where 204 pupils and staff tested positive for Covid-19. They also supplied nine other schools in the district with a product that was found to be sub-standard, containing very low volumes of alcohol. The question is how many other products are out there similar to this?

Knowing what you’re getting 

“There’s really only one question here – how careful were you when the Coronavirus first hit and how careful are you right now? When we say careful – how effective are the products you’re using and how long will they actually last on the surfaces they’re applied to? And how long should they remain on the applied surface before you wipe them off? This could be anywhere you’re likely to touch – from doorknobs and light switches to chairs, remote controls, and table surfaces. And in the case of schools even more areas.

“In the early days of the pandemic, supermarket shelves were cleared of anything that said ‘cleaning or disinfection’ on the label, with people frantic to rid their homes and offices of anything viral. Strong smells emanated from rooms, especially kitchens which had been literally doused with disinfecting products. But how effective were these products?

“One thing for certain is that we now know more than we did about the virus and surfaces at the beginning of this pandemic – although in terms of the virus’s behaviour that’s not saying a lot.

“At this point, unfortunately, many places have sold out of ‘authentic’ products, registered through the NRCS (National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications) or the SABS. Many of the products being sold right now simply don’t come with this type of guarantee. What buyers and managers of companies and government departments must do is if they don’t see these marks then at least the manufacturers must provide laboratory analysis demonstrating the product’s efficacy. 

  • Important terms Decontaminate Removal of pathogens from objects so they are safe to handle, use, or discard. “Umbrella” term for pre-cleaning followed by sanitizing, sterilizing or disinfecting.
  • Clean: Water, detergent (soap), and mechanical friction to reduce pathogen load, organic matter, and dirt. Detergent does not kill pathogens.
  • Sanitize: Lowering the number of pathogens to a safe level by either cleaning or “lower-level” disinfection.
  • Disinfect Type of decontamination using disinfectants to kill ~ 100% of pathogens. Easily deactivated by organic matter and dirt.
  • Sterilize the Type of decontamination using heat and steam often via autoclaving.
  • Clean first (to reduce pathogen load, organic matter, and dirt), then disinfect (to kill remaining pathogens).
  • Recommended for lowering the spread of COVID-19: Routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces.
  • Routine cleaning of hands (soap and water) and sanitization (in absence of soap and water). 

What we do know, care of various world scientific and health organisations, is that each surface has a totally different reaction to the virus in terms of how long it can live.  So, what if your local shop doesn’t have any ‘approved’ disinfectants, what should you use? 

According to Rodrigues, “The product needs to not only be able to guarantee performance but also  be safe for use.” Use 70-90% ethanol (or other types of alcohol e.g. isopropyl alcohol, activities are similar)  

  • Use chlorine solution (sodium/calcium hypochlorite aka bleach/jik)
  • 0.1% (1000 ppm) for general environmental disinfection
  • 0.5% (5000 ppm) for blood and bodily fluid spills
  • Hydrogen peroxide at ≥ 0.5%
  • Contact time for above disinfectants: 1 minute
  • Contact time: Time for a disinfectant to be in contact with the surface in order to kill the pathogen
  • Type of disinfectant will be determined by the type of surface to be cleaned (contact the manufacture if unsure)
Cleaning myths and harmful methods

“As this invasive virus doubles and triples in daily cases and deaths, there have been various commercial entities jumping on the bandwagon to introduce different ways to keep people and surfaces clean and disinfected. One of these has been the disinfection spray tunnels/booths which many schools/companies/mines etc., have installed for people to pass through before entering their premises. Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 says of these, “Human spraying is harmful with almost no benefit.” 

“This is backed up by several world bodies. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) says they ‘don’t recommend the use of sanitising tunnels. There is no evidence they are effective in reducing the spread of Covid-19. Chemicals used in sanitising tunnels could cause skin, eye or respiratory irritation or damage.’ 

“The WHO (World Health Organisation) comments that ‘Spraying of individuals with disinfectants (such as in a tunnel, cabinet, or chamber) is not recommended under any circumstances. This practice could be physically and psychologically harmful and would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplets or contact. As they start speaking, coughing, or sneezing they can still spread the virus.’ 

“What’s important to remember here is that most disinfectants are approved based on their application to surfaces by wiping and not based on their application onto individuals by spraying. 

“The National Department of Health (NDoH), WHO, CDC, EPA, etc., also don’t recommend fogging. They do recommend deep cleaning via wiping disinfectant on surfaces after a thorough cleaning.”

Insights from Burt Rodrigues CEO of Biodx