(By Andrea Stapleton, Operations Coordinator)
As the world continues to fight the current COVID-19 virus and we focus on safety for our communities, we must also carefully consider the substances we use to stop the spread of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has general guidance that people can use for cleaning and disinfecting. The guidance states that the COVID-19 virus can be killed if we use the right products, and the EPA has a long list of registered disinfectants for use. But it is important to know that many of the disinfectants and sanitizers they recommend are also antimicrobial pesticides that can be quite toxic if used incorrectly.
Antimicrobial pesticides are designed to kill germs by disinfecting or sanitizing a surface. Bleach is one commonly known product that can be used as an EPA approved disinfectant. Bleach can also be very hazardous if not used correctly and especially if mixed with other cleaning products such as ammonia. If the appropriate precautions are not followed, the inhalation of these chemicals can cause an increase in respiratory problems which makes people more likely to have adverse health outcomes should they develop COVID-19. With the pressure to use these toxic chemicals to combat COVID-19, we need better research on nontoxic, natural compounds that can effectively kill viruses.
It is important to know that we do have alternatives to the many harsh disinfectants and sanitizers. We all know that hand washing with soap and water is the number one way to protect ourselves from the virus. We also know that using alcohol is a non-toxic way to disinfect surfaces.
The CDC has noted that alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol may be used as surface cleaners and sanitizers.
- Make your own hand sanitizer spray by combining 2/3 cup of 99% alcohol, 1/3 cup aloe vera gel, and 8-10 drops of your favorite essential oil (like lavender) in a small spray bottle.
As scientists advance our understanding of how this novel virus spreads, we must also prioritize research to determine the least toxic ways to keep ourselves and our communities safe from exposure to pesticides.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency. Guidance for cleaning and disinfecting. 2020 Apr 28. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/pdf/Reopening_America_Guidance.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cleaning and disinfecting your home. 2020 May 27. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html