COVID-19: Don’t harm indoor occupants with disinfectants you are using to kill viruses

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, February 2020, Volume 3, #98

The elimination of hazards that could cause harm reduces the potential for vulnerability to occur. Disinfectants are commonly used to eliminate or reduce viruses deposited on indoor surfaces. Therefore the emergence of coronavirus (COVID-19 virus) led to the widespread use of disinfectants toxic enough to be effective in killing viruses. Such measures would help reduce indoor occupants’ exposure to the coronavirus.

The reduction in hazard and vulnerability means there will be a reduction in the risk of harm occurring from the virus or in the occurrence of its massive community outbreak. When making efforts to reduce hazards or vulnerability, the pros and cons of the adopted strategies should be considered. Even if the pros outweighed the cons, it is still essential to consider ways of eliminating or reducing the cons as much as possible.

The con of applying disinfectants to eliminate or reduce the amount of viruses on indoor surfaces is that the toxics chemicals are volatile and can easily be easily aerosolised. The chemicals are also capable of being oxidised, leading to more harmful chemicals being generated through indoor air or surface chemistry. Oxidation products formed from surface chemistry can be emitted into indoor air. The disinfectant chemicals and the by-products of their chemistry are also harmful to humans.

Evidence suggests that the chemicals could cause sensory irritations or respiratory problems to occupants, especially those with poor physiological conditions, in the indoor environment. Some of the chemicals could also cause hormonal disruption to humans leading to more severe health effects. The emission rates, concentration, and hazardous nature of the chemicals, their resident time in the air, and a higher rate of chemical reactions will contribute to the risk of harm occurring to exposed indoor occupants.

The good news is that there is a single solution that can help reduce the risk caused by the chemicals. The solution reduces the extent of each highlighted contributing factor. The solution is ventilation. Ventilation is effective because of its dilution effect. An article titled “the secret behind ventilation dilution effect for healthy indoor air” can be found in Volume 2, #65 (June 2019) of this journal.

Unfortunately, many indoor environments, especially the air-conditioned environments, are not designed to have adequate ventilation rates, thus increasing the vulnerability of people using disinfectants to clean indoor surfaces or people occupying the poorly ventilated indoor environment.

The poorly ventilated indoor environment could also compromise work performance and productivity due to the inability of indoor occupants to focus because of the distraction caused by the chemicals. As earlier noted in the previous articles on coronavirus in this journal, adequate ventilation is also effective in reducing the amount of viruses in indoor environments.

98. Ventilation Disinfectant_98

Do you want to know more about this topic? Read Massin et al. (2007), Quirce and Barranco (2010), Seppanen and Fisk (2004), and Werley et al. (1995) papers.

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