Industry, research bodies warn of reckless use of disinfectants against Covid-19

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on May 28, 2020

Alkali Manufacturers Association of India (AMAI), National Chemical Laboratory, Pune(CSIR-NCL) and the Mumbai-based Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) have come together to spread awareness on the safe use of disinfectants that is at the center of the on-going fight against COVID-19.

There have been many instances of disinfection chambers being erected in the country which spray a mist of disinfectants on those passing through the chamber which could do more harm than good, the organizations said in a joint statement.

Quoting a World Health Organisation (WHO) advisory, they stated that the use of disinfectants such as sodium hypochlorite is for disinfecting surfaces and not human beings.

“We are privileged to get the support of two leading organisations involved in scientific research who have endorsed our views on safe disinfection after conducting laboratory tests”, said Jayantibhai Patel, President AMAI, the representative body of the alkali industry that produces sodium hypochlorite, chlorine, bleaching solution/powder, etc. the major chemicals used for disinfection.

According to Ashwini Kumar Nangia, Director, CSIR-NCL, sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) or bleach or hypo must be used with utmost precautions as a disinfectant so as to avoid skin contact as it may harm the skin and cause irritation. Eyes should also be protected by using proper goggles/face shields.

He added, “High concentration of disinfectants can increase chemical exposure to users and may also damage surfaces. The diluted disinfectant solution should be uniformly applied to surfaces and allowed to remain wet and untouched for at least one minute for the chemical to inactivate pathogens and kill any microorganisms.”

“The Bureau of Indian Standards has classified sodium hypochlorite of 4-6 per cent concentration for household use. This concentration available commercially must be diluted with water by a skilled person to make the solution for disinfection,” said Professor A B Pandit, Vice-Chancellor ICT.

CSIR-NCL, ICT Mumbai, and AMAI are jointly suggesting 0.05 per cent (500 ppm) of bleach as a safe concentration for localised direct spray on abiotic surfaces, but excluding general misting and indoor/ outdoor fogging or fumigation. WHO guidelines do not allow the use of any type of mist tunnel, fogging, or fumigation of outdoor spaces.

“Spraying individuals with disinfectants (such as in a tunnel, cabinet, or chamber) is not recommended under any circumstances. This could be physically and psychologically harmful and would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplets or contact”, WHO stated.

The three organisations are of the view that 0.1-0.5 per cent (1000 to 5000 ppm) of bleach should be used for wiping/ cleaning surfaces with a cloth. The lower concentration of 0.1 per cent (1000 ppm) is suitable for general-purpose home/ office disinfection and a higher concentration of 0.5 per cent (5000 ppm) for hospitals and resistant pathogens settings.

Published on May 28, 2020

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