COVID-19 has brought new challenges when it comes to staying healthy and safe. We have learned that wearing a mask and social distancing will reduce exposure to airborne contaminants and we’ve gained a heightened appreciation for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces.
When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting, there are important things to consider to maintain a healthy and safe environment. What many people may not know is that some cleaners and disinfectants can have harmful health effects. Fortunately, we can minimize the danger by choosing safer products and following careful cleaning and disinfecting practices.
Chemicals to Avoid
- Chlorine Bleach: A commonly used disinfectant, chlorine bleach can cause mild irritation or corrosive injury if exposed to skin or eyes, and when combined with acids or ammonia can cause serious upper respiratory damage or even death.
- Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats): Products using these compounds are among the most extensively used. Quats are skin and lung irritants and can contribute to asthma and breathing problems. They may also cause fertility issues.
How to Spot a Quat — Quaternary Ammonium Compounds are often used in disinfecting wipes. Check the active ingredients on the label; quats usually end in “-on Benzalkonium chloride, Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, Didecyldimethylammonium chloride
Look for the EPA’s “Safer Choice” logo. EPA’s Safer Choice Program identifies effective disinfectants that meet strict and comprehensive health and safety criteria.
Use Safer Chemical Alternatives
The following chemicals have been approved by EPA’s Safer Choice Program as effective disinfecting ingredients:
Not sure if it will kill COVID? The EPA’s “List N” Can Help. Search for products by the EPA’s registration number, by active ingredient, use site, surface type, or contact time. Use this list to find out if your product is effective against human coronavirus or to find the product that meets your preferences. The EPA expects all the chemicals and associated products on this list to kill COVID 19 when used according to the label directions. It is not, however, an indication that the product is “safe.”
For more information, and other safer alternatives for cleaning and disinfecting, visit the Toxics Use Reduction Institute’s website.
This tip was based on Clean Water Fund’s Safe Cleaning andDisinfecting in the Age of COVID