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Cleaning chemicals in the pandemic: Your questions answered

07 October 2020

A WEBINAR hosted by the Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA), provided an opportunity for a series of questions to be answered by Nicky Biggart, UK janitorial sales manager of CHSA member Evans Vanodine, and Chris Ryan, head of international business at BICSc. 

Is there a product proven to kill coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a large family of enveloped viruses. There are animal and human coronaviruses and the family includes SARs and MERS. SARs-Cov-2 is the virus name of this current outbreak and COVID-19 is the name of the disease it causes. The SARS-Cov-2 virus has not been released for testing, so any claim on a product stating it is proven to kill the virus is untrue.

The Vaccinia virus is from the same family of enveloped viruses. The closest surrogate, it is expected to behave in the same way as SARs-COV-2 and so has been used to test the virucidal efficacy of products. This approach has been agreed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is underwritten by EN 14476.

Which products are effective?
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) requires all claims on product labels to be supported by test results and that those test results are appropriate to the area of application. Products stamped with EN 14476 have been tested against the Vaccinia virus and so can claim effectiveness against coronavirus.
Bleach products are also included based on the GOV.UK guidelines which state 1000ppm chlorine will be effective.

Some products claim residual effects? Is this legitimate?
Once an area has been cleaned and disinfected with a quaternary ammonium compound (QAC) product there will be some residual effect. However, as soon as a contaminate enters the space, cleaning is needed. Contaminates include simply an open window or a person entering the area. We are not aware of any test data supporting a residual effect in the presence of such a contaminate.

How do I verify product claims?
Product approval by the ECHA is specific to the product and the task, i.e. the specific product, including whether it is a concentrate or ready to use formulation, is approved only for the specific task. It is imperative, therefore, to use the correct product for the task. It is only for that task, in that environment, that the product is approved.

Reputable manufacturers are keen to display the relevant EN number on the product. The labelling will also clearly indicate key information including the contact time and dilution rate. If in doubt contact the manufacturer or distributor.

Phrases like “environmentally friendly”, “natural ingredients” “biocide free”, “QAC free” are being used to promote disinfectant cleaning products. Are these products effective?
Yes. Each product has had to be investigated and approved to secure the relevant EN standard.

If, however, you are uncertain or the product labelling does not clearly state the relevant EN number, request to see the test data and safety data sheet. If this is not possible, request to review the product’s microbiological profile. This should always be readily available. Every approved product has the test data in the form of a microbiological profile. If this is not readily available, it suggests the product claims are not substantiable.

Are there risks associated with the amount of cleaning chemicals being used in workplaces?
The products being used are professional chemicals. It is imperative users are fully trained and strictly adhere to the stated contact times and dilutions, as those are the specific parameters to which the product is tested.

The onus is on the employer to conduct a full risk assessment and ensure all users are fully trained prior to the use of these chemicals. This is particularly important in the current environment as there are many people who might not have used these products before. For example, teachers may be asked to disinfect multiple touch points between classes.

Do fogging and misting work?
The World Health Organisation, (WHO) does not recommend fogging and misting because there is no known relevant test data. Test data exists for the efficacy of quaternary ammonium compound (QAC) applied via mopping, trigger sprays, etc but not when applied via a fogging or misting device. We do not know the impact of the product being dispersed on a larger scale in a closed environment on people’s respiratory systems or the consequences of potential ingestion.

There is no substitute for the two-stage approach of first cleaning and then disinfecting. Fogging and misting should only be used as an additional safeguard and then only following completion of a thorough risk assessment.

Testing of fogging and misting is taking place at the moment. Only when the data is available, and we understand more about the efficacy of the product applied in this way should fogging and misting be considered.

What’s the panel’s perspective on quick fix disinfection concepts, for example disinfection spray booths (chlorine dioxide) and the use of Hypochlorous acid electrostatic charged sprays?
We are seeing chlorine dioxide spray booths popping up in night clubs and have seen spray booths introduced at some shopping malls. They may encourage complacency, people believing they have been disinfected and so do not need to adhere to social distancing or wash their hands as much.

While there is insufficient test data to support their use in the UK and Europe, it is possible they may be useful in some areas, on the proviso detailed risk assessments and method statements are in place before their use and staff are fully trained.

Are there potential problems in the supply of these cleaning and hygiene products?
At the moment, supply of the active ingredients needed to combat COVID-19 are relatively stable. Manufacturers have also been innovating and there is a much wider range of virucidal products today than in the early days of the pandemic. This position may change if the coming winter in the northern hemisphere causes an upsurge in the virus.

There remains, however, a massive challenge with the packaging, including trigger sprays, hand lotion pumps and their plastic components. Factories have struggled to meet the extraordinary global demand.

As the UK economy continues to open up, more and more organisations need easy-to-use cleaning products for non- cleaning operatives to use. Demand for ready-to-use trigger sprays is continuing to escalate. Supply is, therefore, likely to remain challenging well into 2021.
Our advice is for buyers to maintain contact with their distributors and manufacturers to help the supply chain predict demand as accurately as possible and adapt accordingly.

What should I do if a supplier cannot provide the relevant data, but continues to market the product as effective against Coronavirus?
Claiming product is effective against Coronavirus without the correct supporting data is fraudulent. The product will not kill SARS-Cov-2 as claimed by the supplier, so puts your employees and customers at risk of contracting COVID-19.

If such a case is discovered, then a complaint can be made to the local trading standards office for them to investigate. You can also report concerns to the European Chemical Agency and the Health & Safety Executive.

Are the authorities doing enough?
There are no authorities to police the sector. The onus is on the service provider (in this instance, the cleaning company) to demonstrate responsible
service delivery. This includes responsible procurement processes and using creditable products, having trained operatives, conducting robust health & safety compliance and risk assessments, and demonstrating recognised accreditation. It also includes providing testimonials and evidence of effective quality management systems to make the good service providers stand out.

For more information visit www.chsa.co.uk