Editor’s note: This is the second of three columns about the three pillars of infection control.
In my last article, I covered the first pillar of infection control called personal infection control and mentioned the importance of oral hygiene viral mitigation. This month, I will address surface disinfection to control the spread of pathogens.
We have all seen the store shelves cleaned out of hand sanitizer, Chlorox, Lysol wipes, and other antimicrobial products. All of them work but most have toxic effects, too.
In the dental office it is common to see quaternary ammonium products, iodophors, formaldehyde, Phenolics, peroxides, chlorine compounds, alcohols, ortho-phthalaldehyde and glutaraldehyde.
Many of these are enhanced in their effectiveness by combining them with aromatic agents like alcohol that improve their penetration and effectiveness, but that benefit comes with a disadvantage.
These aromatics cause the chemical to quickly evaporate into the air and that volatile toxin enters the lungs. Many disinfectants such as these are not as toxic when you get them on your skin, but they are many times more toxic once they are volatilized into the air and get into your lungs. Then, they immediately enter the circulatory system and are carried throughout your body.
Many manufacturers recommend you wear a toxic gas filtering mask to use these products, especially if you use them every day and multiple times per day. Teachers in classrooms and those using these products at home generally do not use them in this safe manner and also do not protect their children and pets from these fumes.
In an American Journal of Infection Control article are these findings:
“Several studies have identified cleaning as an occupational risk factor for asthma among health care workers. There are a number of chemicals in cleaning and disinfecting products that can cause or exacerbate asthma because of their sensitizing or irritant properties, including quaternary ammonium compounds, ethanolamines, chlorhexidine, glutaraldehyde, ortho-phthaladehyde, hexachlorophene, and chloramine. In addition, dermatitis and other adverse skin effects have been reported in hospital cleaning workers. However, some health care workers may underestimate their exposure or may lack knowledge of product components.“
These products also are often a biohazard and remain toxic on surfaces and in landfills.
There is a disinfectant that is much more safe and effective. It is hypochlorous acid. It is a very weak acid. The chemical symbol is HOCL. It is 120 times more potent at killing microbes than bleach and is EPA approved for killing coronavirus 229e and approved for many other difficult-to-kill pathogens, yet it is very safe to get on your skin or clothing.
The EPA number for this product is 71847-7-94587. HOCL is FDA approved to breath the fumes that get into the air up to 260 parts per million. You do not need protective masks or protective clothing.
It is natural and is the chemical your white blood cells use to kill bacteria, fungi and viruses in your body. Your cells make it. This one reason is why it is so well tolerated by your body tissues. It is safe to use at home and better than the chemicals under your sink.
It is made commercially in two ways: Electrolysis or electrical current in salt water or with a tablet dissolved in water. Most electrolysis made product comes in a concentration of around 200 parts per million, which is quite strong enough to kill SARS Cov 2 on any clean surface.
You can find machines that make this in many places. These inexpensive machines make contaminates in their solution, such as peroxide, ozone and others that you might not want in your final product. There also are companies that make the liquid and will sell it. There are other very expensive machines that make pure products.
HOCL can be fine mist sprayed or wiped on surfaces. The company I work with uses a tablet to make this solution and you can get concentrations of anywhere from 6,000 parts per million to 200 parts per million or whatever you desire depending on how much you dilute it with water. It is not an essential oil.
They are called Dolphin Pods and it has switched over to a smaller tablet of 4 mg and make the concentration at about 1,300 parts per million. This is strong enough to kill any microbe on a non-soiled surface. Because it is in tablet form, it is easy and inexpensive to ship, portable and does not require expensive equipment to make. Just drop a tablet into a bottle, let it dissolve, then spray. It has a swimming pool type of odor.
If the Dolphin Pod mixture is placed into a fogger or fine mister, it will get around corners and cracks and crannies to disinfect places you cannot wipe easily. It is fine to let it dry in these and any areas.
It is not recommended to use this product to sanitize the air in a room because it is not known how much is concentrated in the air to calibrate microbial kill rates. For that we do another technique to kill airborne virus. This brings us to the last Pillar of infection control: Air mitigation. That is the third Pillar of Infection control that will be addressed in the next column.