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Using Disinfectants for Covid-19? Surface transmission is 'unlikely'

Using disinfectants for Covid-19 cleaning? Recent articles in the Lancet indicate that Covid-19 surface transmission is unlikely. This raises questions about the current over-reliance on chemicals as a cleaning solution for Covid-19….

Last week, Joe Flanagan, director of Ingenious Probiotics, wrote an article in Cleanzine magazine.

Using chemicals and indiscriminate biocides for cleaning? Are we on the right track?

This was driven by The Lancet’s recent articles showing that Covid-19 is ‘unlikely’ to be transmitted via surfaces. The articles raise questions about the current over-reliance on chemicals as a cleaning solution for Covid-19. In particular, how the cleaning industry must consider the impact of increased chemical use on the health and wellbeing of cleaning operatives and building occupants.

The answer lies in changing how we think about the products we use; non-toxic and naturally-sourced probiotic cleaning products are a healthier alternative.

Here is the article in full:

Cleaning must consider the health of operatives and occupants

The cleaning industry is now a subsection of the health and wellness sector: It’s not about making rooms look clean for a price; the health of cleaning operatives and building occupants is paramount.

Prior to Covid-19, cleaning industry conversations about the health implications of chemical cleaning products were growing. In particular, the mounting realisation that an industry dedicated to improving health and hygiene could be contributing to the reverse.

Cleaning operatives who use chemicals for long period of time experience higher cancer rates than the general population. Cleaning chemicals are also linked to breathing issues, child asthma and disturbed gut microbiome (the balance of microorganisms in our digestive tracts, which is important for good health). Furthermore, cleaning products in the USA are linked with reproductive system health issues.

In response, we provided an easy way to implement change: Naturally sourced, probiotic cleaning products that improve hygiene results – without the negative health impacts of chemical biocides.

However, Covid-19 side-lined this positive change for many in the industry. The need to replace lost business was pressing and urgent. And striving to sanitise every surface became an obsession borne out of understandable client fears. But, is this still the case?

The focus of Covid transmission is via air not surfaces

In September and December 2020, the Lancet published two articles that moved the focus for Covid-19 transmission away from surfaces towards airborne droplets and aerosols (very small particles). (Low risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by fomites in real-life conditions and Covid transmission – up in the air?)

What does this mean for containment of infection in general?

Firstly, social distancing, proper hand washing and wearing a face covering – which reduces the projection of droplets into the air – all help.

Secondly, the reduction of virus-laden aerosols in the air also helps (a lot!). Future building design is likely to address air purification – for both recirculated air and polluted outside air – and air flow patterns to help with this.

What about cleaning and sanitising surfaces?

The Lancet articles explain how Coronavirus found on surfaces was not viable. This seems to suggest that the chances of catching Coronavirus from a surface is unlikely. Other information sources repeat this. This implies that although using disinfectants for Covid-19 cleaning – especially fogging and sanitising – had been considered very important, this is now under question.

Probiotic cleaning products are safer for cleaning operatives and building occupants than chemicals

The true human health cost of recent high intensity cleaning and sanitisation may not be known for some time. The average adult breathes approx. 15kgs of air per day. And shockingly, 14% of UK Covid-19 deaths are linked to the poor quality of the air the victim breathed.

As a rule, we spend approximately 90% of our time indoors (work, home, car, shops etc.). Therefore, surely it makes sense to remove pollution from indoor air wherever we can?

Some pollutants – such as flame retardant coatings – are difficult and/or costly to remove. Conversely, others – such as chemical cleaning products – are easy, quick and inexpensive to remove. This means that using probiotics rather than disinfectants for Covid-19 reduces the amount of cleaning chemicals immediately.

What about other side-effects of using disinfectants for Covid-19?

Pre-Covid, the biggest issue facing the World Health Organisation (WHO) was antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR occurs when bacteria and viruses change over time and no longer respond to antibiotics and other medicines. This makes infections harder to treat and increases the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.

Pre-Covid, WHO believed AMR would claim 10 million lives every year by 2050. Unfortunately, AMR is likely to be far worse when Coronavirus reduces as a threat. This is because chemical cleaning and indiscriminate antibacterial cleaning agents create resistant strains of pathogens – or ‘superbugs’. In fact, they are key culprits (along with overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals) in causing AMR.

Last Summer, a national newspaper reported that hand sanitisers can also lead to an increase of dangerous pathogens on our hands. ThisWeekinFM also reported how overuse of hand santiser gels may cause more harm than good.

In addition, anecdotal evidence shows that cleaning chemicals can cause costly damage to gym equipment (Europe and the UK), transportation equipment and delicate electronic hospital equipment (US).

But how do we mitigate this, and quickly?

Probiotic cleaning improves hygiene results and reduces AMR

Well, probiotic cleaning products are shown to improve hygiene results. Moreover, they work in a safe, mechanical way that reduces the issue of AMR.

As the products are naturally-sourced they are safe for both building occupants and cleaning operatives. Moreover, they positively benefit the wider environment.

The Lancet evidence suggests there is no need to exacerbate health issues by holding on to what was acceptable in the past. Just like passive smoking, a simple shift in understanding and habit can soon become the norm as health benefits become obvious. Passive smoking was once considered ‘OK’, but is now never acceptable (and doesn’t that seem obvious now?).

Breathing in and absorbing chemicals and other biocides aimed at the indiscriminate destruction of all bacteria will (hopefully) become socially unacceptable soon. The question is, who leads this early adaption of improved health and hygiene and who waits until the last minute to change?

CIBSE TM40 standards for health and well-being in the built environment industry makes the occupant’s indoor air safety a responsibility of those caring for the building. (5). Industry associations are calling for ‘safe havens’ that achieve our right to breathe clean indoor air. How can chemical cleaners possibly fit into this goal?

Switching to cleaning with probiotics is shown to dramatically reduce rates of Healthcare Acquired Infections (HCAIs).

The Lancet reports how 50% of in-hospital patients who died with Covid-19 also had secondary bacterial infections. These infections were contracted after admission to hospital, and include bacterial infection from ventilators. Some reports also point to infection from resistant strains of pathogenic bacteria. Reducing the rate of HCAIs would improve resources and reduce costs for the NHS, but this is a different issue.

So – how does probiotic cleaning work? 

If you are still reading, you may be looking for an alternative to indiscriminate biocides and cleaning chemicals. One without the negative health impact…

(NB: this article refers only to our vegan and animal cruelty-free Provilan ranges, which use non-chemical means to stabilise long shelf life).

Like all detergent cleaning products, the eco detergents/surfactants in our Provilan cleaning products clean surfaces and break the outer membrane of envelope-type viruses (including Coronavirus). But it’s the added probiotic ‘good’ bacteria that make the difference:

These helpful probiotic microorganisms remain on surfaces and continue working for up to 72 hours after application. They consume organic waste/dirt and bio-allergens (dust mite faeces etc.) and they out-compete the ‘bad’ pathogenic / odorous bacteria. In other words, the ‘bad’ bacteria simply die of starvation. They cannot develop resistance due to the lack of food.

In this way, the probiotics protect against bacteria such as MRSA and E. coli that can cause ill-health and odours. They also restore a healthy and balanced indoor microbiome, which supports better health and immunity. They act as a defending army to prevent recontamination by pathogens.

When using disinfectants for Covid cleaning, indiscriminate biocidal techniques remove this crucial competition provided by the ‘good’ bacteria. This reduces recontamination times to less than one hour; i.e., surfaces cleaned once a day, every day, are likely to be pathogen-bacteria contaminated for 23 hours a day whilst still appearing visually clean.

What probiotic cleaning products are in the range?

Our Provilan probiotic cleaning products include floor and general surfacing cleaning, hand soaps, medical tool cleaning, non-chemical hot tub maintenance and odour prevention. The probiotic animal care products clean too – including pet shampoo, aquarium cleaning, wound, ear and eye care. All products use the same method of mechanically out-competing bad bacteria and replacing with good. The probiotic sprays for hard-to-clean soft furnishings and difficult-to-reach areas perform the same function.

A summary of the benefits

To conclude, the cleaning industry is not just about making rooms look clean for a price: it’s a subsection of the health and wellness sector. The health and wellbeing of cleaning operatives and building occupants is paramount. And the key is to keep cleaning the touch points etc., but switch to probiotic-enriched natural cleaning products. This:

– Improves hygiene at a microbial level compared with traditional chemical cleaning.
– Reduces antimicrobial resistance and helps protect our antibiotics.
– Reduces the risk of health damage to people (and our pets!).
– Protects client equipment from corrosion and damage – even with the extra cleaning frequency.
– Protects the wider environment from chemical pollution and benefits the circular economy (our probiotic range is actually used as part of waste water treatment).
– Reduces biofilms at a microbial level.

This article is less about the science of how probiotic cleaning works, more about the health imperative to make a small, easy change for those supplying and/or using cleaning products. There is now a higher focus on cleaning operatives. The wellbeing of those who trust us with their health via the safety and hygiene of their working and living environment rely on the advice and information we give to them.

Interested in trying probiotic cleaning products?

To find out more about probiotic cleaning, visit the ‘About’ and ‘Knowledge’ sections of our website

If you are unsure about change, just offer this option to your clients: Give them the facts about using disinfectants for Covid and let them decide. A change is in the air (and now on the cleaned surfaces too!)

Contact us via the website, email or call 01268 544530. Wholesale and distributor options are available. Or Shop the Provilan cleaning ranges Now!

Author: Joe Flanagan, LCIBSE, Director of Ingenious Probiotics.