When it comes to disinfectants and sanitizers, both distributors and end-users alike should keep in mind the importance of a strong relationship between having the right products in place and having the proper procedural knowledge for these products.
“Without either, the end-user cannot be successful and might be spreading disease rather than trying to eliminate it,” according to Mark Warner, Director of Training and Product Manager — Disinfectants & Sanitizers.
He added it’s also essential to follow directions. Some products have specific dilution rates that must be followed. Proper dwell (sitting wet) times after a disinfectant or sanitizer is applied must also be followed.
In other words, according to Warner, short cuts can’t be tolerated.
“It’s also important to remember that you can only fully disinfect and decontaminate a surface that has been pre-cleaned,” Warner said. “If there is some type of soil covering a pathogen or organism, and a person is not able to break through that soil, he/she cannot assume that the surface is now free of pathogens.”
Warner also addressed the growing relationship between “green” cleaning and disinfectants. He noted that green cleaning has swept North America, bringing with it a host of benefits for cleaning professionals and the general public alike. However, the movement has also brought to the forefront a problem that is becoming increasingly challenging for jan/san distributors.
A growing number of healthcare facilities now want to use only proven green products, including disinfectants, and yet, Warner said, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is comfortable with its own standards and criteria (as they apply to disinfectants) and currently does not allow disinfectants sold within the United States to bear the markings or labels of any green certification organization.
Warner pointed out, however, that this is only related to the United States. It is worthwhile, however, to look at products that are available in such places as Canada, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.
“All of these areas have different forms of registering disinfectants,” he said. “If somebody is really looking for safer disinfectants fore use in the USA, he/she may want to look at what other governments are certifying as green or what Stephen Ashkin considers a ‘green’ disinfectant and then pick the EPA Registered disinfectant closest to those considerations.”
Warner said there is a possibility that the U.S. EPA may soon allow some form of certification to be placed on labels of disinfectants.
“This would be a way for people to understand that a certain disinfectant is built to be as green as possible,” he said.
According to Warner, there are generally six primary ingredients in most disinfectants. The first ingredient to look at is the active agent, which is designed to kill a list of organisms. Make sure the disinfectant has the killing efficacy to deal with the pathogens that are of concern. These are required to be listed on each product’s Microbial Efficacy Data Sheet, and are often summarized on the labels. There can be great differences among available disinfectants. The other five ingredients to look at are water, solvent, surfactants/detergent, dye and fragrance. It is worth noting that not all disinfectants have all of these ingredients. Most quat-based disinfectants (the most widely used type of disinfectant) do contain all of these ingredients to varying degrees, but other types of disinfectants may not (bleach, silver, etc.) contain a solvent.
“A buyer has the right to know whether or not the other ingredients (solvent, surfactant/detergent, dye and fragrance) are derived from oil-based materials or are biobased and green,” Warner said. “In Canada and Scandinavia, disinfectants are being certified as green. It’s an indication that these (four) ingredients are built to green standards and are not derived from oil-based products. There are great resources available today for biobased or green solvents, surfactants, dyes and fragrances.”
Other ways distributors can advise their clients on how to make disinfectants healthier for users, building occupants and the environment is to simply advise them not to use disinfectants everywhere, all the time.
According to Warner, sometimes a disinfectant is used where it simply is not needed.
“When we are putting together a housekeeping program, often the smart way to approach this is to build several different housekeeping plans. These plans revolve around the degree of environmental threat,” Warner said. “If we are in an environment where nobody is worrying about dying from some form of flu bug, then we are basically operating in a no-threat environment. In these situations the advice should be, “Do not overuse disinfectants.’
“When we get into a more elevated threat environment, we tell people that their housekeeping program needs to make three changes. They need to change their procedures, increase their cleaning frequencies and increase the efficacy of the product(s) they are using.”
The goal is to make sure a facility does not become fertile ground for some type of outbreak. Warner has been involved over the years in developing the DEFCON ranking systems for cleaning. DEFCON is a military term that stands for “Defense Condition.” As it relates to the cleaning industry, however, Warner said this ranking system is used to assess the environmental degree of danger, and to better understand how to identify threat levels. It’s also designed to adjust procedures, chemistries and tools that fit the situation DEFCON is divided into four levels of severity, with DEFCON 1 meaning no significant threat, DEFCON 2 meaning there is a highly contagious, potentially lethal pathogen in the community, DEFCON 3 meaning there is a highly contagious, potentially lethal pathogen in the facility, and DEFCON 4 stating that weapons-grade pathogens (bio-terrorism) are in a facility.
Under DEFCON 3, where an outbreak has taken place at a specific facility, “It’s important to make sure those in charge are using a high-grade disinfectant throughout a facility. This is done to make sure they are doing everything in their power to prevent the spread of an outbreak.”
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