There is no question; the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, from how we do business to how we think about the spread of illnesses. The effects will be felt for a long time to come. For the cleaning and disinfection industry, the public’s attention on infection prevention and public health has never been greater. People are looking beyond aesthetics and while they want safe, clean spaces, they also want to use disinfectants responsibly.

How are businesses finding this balance? One example is the wide adoption of touchless surface disinfection technologies, such as electrostatic sprayers. These devices allow businesses to target specific surfaces (think high risk, high touch), or all surfaces in an area (e.g., restrooms), efficiently and effectively. Operators can disinfect surfaces in a matter of seconds while using less disinfectant overall. In fact, some electrostatic sprayers can disinfect four times faster and use up to 65% less disinfectant compared with traditional trigger sprayers. This is due to the even coating and efficiency of the charged droplets. This means fewer bottles, fewer refills, less potential surface impact, less disinfectant, lower overall cost, and less time spent disinfecting. As with most things, less is truly more.

Clorox® first launched an electrostatic device in March 2017. While the technology had previously been successfully used in industries such as agriculture and inkjet printing, electrostatics were new to the surface disinfection space. In the first two years, electrostatic devices were primarily used in the education, automotive, healthcare, and office industries.  Over the past 17 months, electrostatic sprayers have become increasingly popular. Clorox now offers devices in all shapes and sizes, to accommodate all types of usage occasions, including carts, backpacks, and handheld devices.

As the pandemic progressed, more and more businesses began adopting touchless disinfection technologies. In an effort to better understand which businesses and industries were mobilizing electrostatic devices in their surface disinfection arsenal and how use has changed since before the pandemic, we took a deep dive into our current electrostatic users. Results showed that while electrostatic devices are still very popular in schools, offices, and healthcare, they are becoming increasingly popular across a spectrum of various public spaces and facilities. In total, we found that 72 new industries began using electrostatics since the beginning of the pandemic. Businesses of all sizes, from family-owned restaurants and independent daycare centers to large companies like United, Live Nation, and the NBA have adopted electrostatic technology into their regular disinfecting practices to ensure their facilities are as safe and healthy as possible.

Here is what we found:

As highlighted recently by the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert R. Redfield, “when we’re talking about making sure high-touch surfaces are disinfected and actually safe to touch, I certainly recommend electrostatic sprayers over non-automated options – the improved surface coverage makes a big difference when it comes to deactivating virus particles.”1

To learn more about which type of electrostatic devices are best for your facility, visit https://www.cloroxpro.com/products/electrostatic-technology/

1. Dr. Redfield interview from July 2021

In just a few short weeks we may begin to hear the familiar sounds of rallies on the quad, football games, and parties signaling the return of college students from summer break and the start of another school year. As students come back on campus, beware, unwelcomed guests arrive as well. These dangerous intruders are waiting to be caught, and go by many names including, rhinovirus, influenza, meningitis, and SARS-CoV-2.

Burden of Disease

As students cram into classrooms and lecture halls, share food and drinks, live in close quarters, and participate in various social activities, it is no surprise that pathogens are quick to spread and may cause infection at college and universities1. COVID-19 demonstrated this as campuses were often hit the hardest. The reality is, well before the pandemic, institutions of higher education were unnecessarily burdened with high rates of illness.

In 2019, nearly 46% of college students reported experiencing cold, flu, or upper respiratory illness at some point during the academic year2. Now with lower COVID-19 rates, precautions lessening, and immune systems out of practice, there are rising concerns over the real likelihood that more frequent and severe infections may occur this year3.

There is a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic: the spotlight is now on health at institutions of higher education, making them more aware, equipped, and in a better place to address the spread of infection. It is their opportunity and responsibility to be prepared and to take a proactive approach to help keep these pathogens at bay. The following are recommendations to help create a safer and healthier campus this upcoming year.

Develop Robust Plans and Protocols

In response to a global pandemic, institutions were forced to dust off plans they were hoping to never use. In many cases, guidance had to be quickly adopted or even created from scratch. As a sliver of “normal” appears and the hustle and bustle of campus returns, now is the time to ensure the ability to manage and respond to any pathogens threatening campus health.

I recommend that before this school year starts, every institution should:

Monitor Trends

The pandemic made clear the need to quickly identify health threats so that an appropriate and timely response can occur. As testing capability increased with new laboratories and technology, so did the ability to detect and prevent COVID-19 infections. If we aim to prevent the transmission of illness as the school year begins, similar methods of surveillance must be in place to detect infections.

To implement an effective surveillance strategy:

Utilize Interventions

Wearing a mask in public, although not fun, proved to be an effective intervention in slowing the spread of COVID-194. Likewise, other measures such as providing disinfecting wipes in shared spaces, setting up hand sanitizer stations, and implementing physical distancing markers, were taken to stop the spread of pathogens at colleges and universities. These interventions accompanied by other activities are necessary to decrease the spread of campus pathogens.

To complete your infection prevention strategy:

If we want to hear the happy sounds of a buzzing campus this year, a critical look at past, present, and future practices must occur as school begins. These recommendations, when applied, will increase the capacity of institutions of higher education and likewise K-12 Schools, to successfully mitigate the spread of illness. As a result, we can feel confident knowing students and campuses are supported in their academic development and ambitions.

  1. Shah M, Ferra G, Fitzgerald S, Barreira PJ, Sabeti PC, Colubri A. Containing the spread of infectious disease on college campuses. bioRxiv. 2020. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.31.20166348
  2. American College Health Association. American College Health Association - National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA-II). Reference Group Data Report, Spring 2019.
  3. Consumer news. As COVID rules ease, common colds rebound across America [Internet]. Consumer Health News | HealthDay. 2021 [cited 2021 Jul 12]. Available from: https://consumer.healthday.com/6-24-as-covid-rules-recede-common-colds-rebound-across-america-2653478411.html
  4. Brooks JT, Butler JC. Effectiveness of mask wearing to control community spread of SARS-CoV-2. JAMA. 2021;325(10):998–9.

On March 11, 2020, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced the suspension of the 2019-2020 season as COVID-19 rates continued to climb and risk athlete and fan safety. Athletes and fans were unable to reenter the arena for nearly a year as arena operations teams developed multiple plans to ensure a safe and healthy reopening. One arena operation team that worked around the clock to welcome back fans and athletes was located at Chase Center, home of the six-time NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. Chase Center reopened their doors nearly nine months after the Golden State Warriors had played their last game, thanks in part to the implementation of innovative technological solutions and robust cleaning and disinfecting protocols. We spoke with Brandon Schneider, the team’s President & Chief Operating Officer, about how Chase Center’s staff is navigating this tricky time to keep everyone healthy and safe.

A Timeout to Strategize

At the start of the pandemic, guidance changed rapidly as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continued to research SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and how it spreads across populations. The arena operations team at Chase Center also faced difficulties at the start, but leapt into planning mode with Jackie Ventura, the director of facility health and hygiene for Chase Center, among others. “We were the first NBA team to create a dedicated Health and Hygiene department,” said Schneider. Ventura and her team created protocols for every potential athlete and fan interaction, including health and safety plans that were submitted to city health officials, which allowed the Golden State Warriors to host training camps and start the season. The plans established during this time were used to train the dedicated Chase Center Clean Team and will be repurposed moving forward to address other germs, especially during cold and flu season.

Above and Beyond the Guidance

Since the arena operations team wanted to ensure that their cleaning protocols were going above and beyond the guidance, they collaborated with ABM to develop enhanced protocols due to the organization’s wealth of resources in terms of health and hygiene best practices.

Chase Center was also one of the first major sports and entertainment venues to receive the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC)’s STAR facility accreditation, validating the steps taken by the arena operations team to adhere to effective and efficient cleaning and disinfecting protocols within the cleaning industry.

Deploying New Gameday Measures

When the Chase Center opened to fans in April of this year, proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination was required.

To create an even safer indoor environment, the arena operations team integrated new technological solutions that have proven to also enhance and streamline the spectator experience. One such advancement was the revamp of the Warriors + Chase Center app, which now allows fans to manage their game experience from the palm of their hand. From reserving a parking spot and managing their tickets to ordering and paying for food, the app helps provide convenience to fans by limiting visits to kiosks.

To disinfect, the arena operations team leveraged the Clorox® Total 360® System and the Clorox® Total 360® ProPack System, a backpack electrostatic sprayer, throughout the arena. Both of these electrostatic sprayers thoroughly deliver Clorox disinfectant to surfaces. The Clorox® Total 360® Systems are now being used to disinfect the Golden State Warriors’ player practice facilities on a daily basis, as well as within Chase Center bowl seating areas and premium spaces before and after use for Warriors’ games, concerts or private events.

“The Clorox® Total 360® System and Clorox® Total 360® ProPack System have been invaluable assets in providing an effective disinfection tool that we can use to sanitize and disinfect large surface areas,” stated Schneider. “In a venue the size of Chase Center, they save us a lot of time as we can treat large areas like our seating bowl very quickly. We feel very fortunate to be able to collaborate with a best-in-class company like Clorox whose products the public have a lot of faith in.”

A Bright Season Ahead

Through a dedicated effort and integrating a holistic strategy to support a safe return, Chase Center was successful in welcoming back their fans. And as “The Dubs” fans excitedly head back to their seats, a renewed purpose for delivering and maintaining a seamless and safe visitor experience is top of mind. "My favorite memory from the past year was the moment I got to greet the first fan to enter the building for our first in-person game of the year,” Schneider said. “It marked the culmination of over a year’s worth of planning and hard work to get to that point. We are looking forward to a very busy fall at Chase Center.”

With a proud history of producing professional athletes like Peyton Manning and Justin Gatlin, the University of Tennessee (UT) strives for excellence both on and off the field. That same code of excellence extends to their high standards of cleanliness, not only within the dorms and academic buildings, but also within their athletic training and performance facilities. We spoke with Gordon Nelson Jr., Director of Facilities Services at the UT Knoxville, about how his team helps keep UT athletes at the top of their game through upholding cleaning and disinfection protocols.

A Track Record of Cleanliness

Gordon has been working within the Facilities Services team at various schools and universities since 1977, joining UT in 2011. Upon his arrival in Knoxville, Gordon made it his mission to support UT’s academic and athletic programs through his work within the Facilities Services team. Gordon and his team pair manual cleaning and disinfecting with the Clorox® Total 360® System to treat a variety of areas, from classrooms and stairwells to training spaces and locker rooms, to keep students and athletes healthy. In fact, Gordon has even connected with CloroxPro’s Research and Development Team to ensure that the Clorox® Total 360® System could be used to disinfect several non-traditional items – like football helmets. “In my opinion, our CloroxPro products are our best secret weapon in keeping our players healthy off the field so they’re ready for whatever challenges they face on the field,” said Gordon.

Pathogens vs. Athletic Facilities: A Common Rivalry

Since athletic facilities are high-touch, high traffic spaces, it is fairly common for pathogens to quickly spread in these environments. In fact, contact sport athletes that use these spaces are 10-15 times more likely to contract Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) than the general population1,and up to 31% of college athletes are colonized with this pathogen2. These facts show how important cleaning and disinfection of athletic facilities is to prevent the spread of germs that can cause illness.

COVID-19: The Unexpected Opponent

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a shift in the perception of the importance of the role Gordon and his team plays across the campus. While COVID-19 is not primarily spread via surfaces, the COVID-19 pandemic elevated awareness of the importance of cleaning and disinfecting to prevent the spread of germs that can cause illness across the campus. “From preparing the dorms for students this fall to disinfecting our sporting arenas after our spring sports games, we’re remaining diligent to make sure all areas are cleaned and disinfected properly to help prevent the spread of germs that can cause illness. In fact, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, all 60 of our Facilities Services staff members have shared they feel more comfortable on our campus than anywhere else – even in their own homes.”

Coaching the Next Generation

One of the ways that UT’s disinfection protocols are set apart from other institutions is their third-party certification program with the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA). This 22-week training program has been a staple of the UT Facilities Services team for over eight years, addressing all areas of care including newer disinfection protocols, such as proper usage of the Clorox® Total 360® System. The program is available to staff members with varying levels of familiarity with the English language, and translators are available to ensure that the material is easily accessible for all.

In fact, Gordon shared that training his staff has been his number one priority and the most helpful way to maintain his athletic training facilities. “By training our staff about the differences between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing a space, we’ve been able to maximize our efforts and maintain a cleaner and safer environment across all of our facilities.”

The Disinfection Playbook

Gordon’s top piece of advice for other athletic training facility managers is to dig deep into the day-to-day disinfection protocols that are currently being implemented in the space. “When COVID-19 hit, I found that many university staff members weren’t even aware of our standard pre-pandemic cleaning and disinfecting protocols. Before any additional supplies were purchased, we gathered together and mapped out how our facilities were currently being cleaned. With this information in mind, we were able to determine which spaces needed additional disinfection and consulted with our experts on purchasing the right products for the right space.”

Once the spaces and products were accounted for, Gordon set to work training his staff on the latest CDC disinfection guidance – as well as proper use of different disinfection devices like the Clorox® Total 360® System. He set up a schedule to inspect a space, assign someone to attend to the space’s disinfection needs, then reinspect for any additional cleaning. Protocols and successfully cleaned spaces were recorded through the university’s online management portal – which is accessible to the entire Facilities Services team, as well as many staff members. This way, teachers and other staffers could see which areas had already been disinfected and which ones were still awaiting attention. Although these changes to UT’s cleaning and disinfection protocols were prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gordon and his staff plan to continue updating their protocols on an ongoing basis. Gordon noted, while they were able to address the day-to-day effects of pathogens in athletic facilities pre-pandemic, this revamp will help them to get ahead of the next outbreak and upcoming cold and flu season.

Looking Ahead to Next Season

With states and universities reopening, Gordon and his team feel prepared to welcome students and community members back to campus. On May 14, UT held its first full-occupancy baseball game against Arkansas at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville. The university’s 21,678 seat basketball arena and 102,455 seat football stadium are also planning to open over the summer for athletic practices and events – gearing up for the September 7 return to full capacity. Gordon and his team are ready to tackle the upcoming season with their Clorox® Total 360® System and smarter approach to cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

References

1 https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/10/26/buccaneers-dealing-with-mrsa-outbreak/2JxLajA7nNdZXec8kKq4kI/story.html

2 http://www.empr.com/medical-news/contact-sports-may-boost-spread-of-methicillin-resistantstaphylococcus-aureus-mrsa/article/376505/

In my latest blog post, we discussed the law that guarantees your right to know what is in your cleaning and disinfecting products. In this post, you will learn how to understand the different ingredients in your products and what they are used for.

The active ingredient gives your product its antimicrobial power

Active ingredients, such as bleach or quaternary ammonium chlorides, are what gives cleaning and disinfectant products that “oomph” against bacteria and viruses. They are the do-ers and are responsible for exactly how a product works. Quaternary ammonium chlorides poke holes in bacterial membranes, bleach disintegrates membranes, and most active ingredients will degrade proteins. However, these ingredients are often not completely active on their own. They need helpers.

Take hydrogen peroxide for example. Hydrogen peroxide can be a very powerful disinfectant. However, a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution you get at the pharmacy will not be as good at killing microbes as a disinfectant product containing less than 1% hydrogen peroxide when mixed into an appropriate formulation. This is because in the presence of the right buffer, hydrogen peroxide can become a much better oxidizer, which will make it more effective at killing microbes. Similarly, bleach, or sodium hypochlorite, will be better at killing microbes at different pH conditions. At low pH, sodium hypochlorite becomes its acidic counterpart, hypochlorous acid. Hypochlorous acid is a much stronger antimicrobial, but it is only present at low pH. These differences can be attributed to the formulation of a product.

We expect more from our disinfecting products than efficacy

The overall formulation changes many things about a product with the same active ingredient. Besides the ability to kill microbes, a formulation can create products with a wide variety of special skills. Our disinfecting products often do double, or even triple duty.

We want our disinfectants to be:

The product formulation can accomplish all these wishes. Fragrances are added to improve the aesthetics, surfactants and detergents break up dirt and grease and aid in spot cleaning, and additives may improve product stability and provide greater surface compatibility.

Appreciate the forms of your formulations!

In addition to the results we want from disinfectants, the forms they take are equally important. Formulations that are safe to use through trigger sprays may not be suitable for use through an electrostatic device, as they may cause excessive fragrance or irritation. Because of this, you might notice that disinfectant solutions designed to be used in electrostatics devices contain minimal ingredients and no fragrances. Always be sure to follow the directions for use on the product label and avoid using products in formats they are not approved for. This will ensure safety, and that you get the most out of each carefully constructed disinfectant formulation.

Learn about the functions of some common ingredients

See the table below to learn more about what common ingredients add to the product formulation.

Ingredient TypeExamplesPurpose
Antimicrobial (often the "active ingredient)Sodium hypochlorite (Bleach)
Hydrogen peroxide
Dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (Quat)
Kills microbes (e.g, bacteria, viruses, fungi)
SolventWater
Alcohol
Ethanolamine
Helps cover surfaces and deliver active ingredient to microbes
Surfactants/Detergents (the "cleaners")Sodium lauryl sulfate
Glycolic acid
Propylheptyl ether (PEG/PPG)
Dissolves soils and helps physically remove microbes and dirt
AdditivesSodium hydroxide
Sodium carbonate
Phosphoric acid
Provides stability for the formula or helps protect surfaces from damage
FragranceLimonene
Myrcene
Linalool
Gives the product a pleasant smell or masks odors

The next time you look at an ingredients list, notice all the components that work together for the final product from microbe-killing to aesthetics.

In the past year, the words aerosol, particle, and droplet have all been brought front and center as we learn more about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 and its transmission. In the world of surface disinfection, these words are equally important particularly when it comes to evaluating new disinfection technologies. However, in my experience both inside and outside the public health community, these words tend to be used interchangeably. It leads me to question how the cleaning industry is supposed to differentiate and identify the information most relevant to them and the safety of their workers. Are all droplets really aerosols? Are particles the same as droplets? How does the particle or droplet size impact the safety of the various surface disinfection applications?

To help clarify, let’s break it down:

  1. Aerosol: A suspension of tiny particles or droplets in the air.1 Aerosol is often used both to define respiratory droplets and particles that are small in size, as well as to explain the collection or cloud of these droplets in the air.2
  2. Particle (also known as particulate matter): Tiny pieces of solids or liquids that are in the air. Examples of these particles include things like dust, smoke, dirt, and drops of liquid. Particles can range in sizes. Some are big enough (or appear dark enough) to see with our naked eye, e.g., you can often see smoke in the air. While others are so small that you cannot see them in the air. As illustrated in the below image, the range of particle size can vary considerably.3
  3. Droplet: Simply defined as a tiny drop of liquid.4 A droplet is a type of particulate matter.

In April 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their updated guidance for prevention of COVID-19 when using electrostatic sprayers, foggers, misters, or vaporizers. In this guidance, they caution operators that “these devices aerosolize chemicals, or suspend them in the air, and they can stay in the air for long periods of time, especially if the area is not well ventilated.” In terms of safety, the size of the droplets or particulate matter in the air is what matters when determining if something is truly inhalable or breathable and sizes can vary greatly.6 Large droplets or particles generally fall to the ground quite quickly because of gravity. To provide scale, inhalable particles or droplets that enter the airways are usually anything below 30 µm (30 microns) and respirable particles or droplets are typically defined as anything less than 10 microns in diameter.7 5  The CDC guidance correctly points out that users should review the requirements and safety protocols for these technologies, but it is important to knowthat the technologies provide different levels of performance and require different safety precautions. 

So where do the common surface disinfection technologies fall in terms of particle or droplet size?

infographic showing droplet size of solution through electrostatic sprayers versus misters

As you can see, foggers, trigger sprays and electrostatic sprayers offer a range of disinfecting benefits. While electrostatic sprayers and foggers are often considered similar, their performance demands different levels of personal protective equipment (PPE), room preparation, and room re-entry wait times. Regardless of the technology you decide is right for your cleaning and disinfection protocols, the droplet size of the delivery system does make a difference.

References

1. CDC. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Aerosols [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2010 [cited 2021 Apr 28]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aerosols/default.html
2. CDC. Science Brief: SARS-CoV-2 and Potential Airborne Transmission - Updated Oct. 5, 2020 [Internet]. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020 [cited 2021 Apr 28]. p. 4. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/scientific-brief-sars-cov-2.html
3. CDC. Air Quality: Particle Pollution [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019 [cited 2021 Apr 28]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/air/particulate_matter.html
4. Merriam-Webster. Droplet [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 28]. Available from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/droplet#:~:text=Medical Definition of droplet,drop (as of a liquid)
5. CDC. Safety Precautions When Using Electrostatic Sprayers, Foggers, Misters, or Vaporizers for Surface Disinfection During the COVID-19 Pandemic [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 28]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/eh-practitioners/sprayers.html
6. Baron P. Generation and Behavior of Airborne Particles (Aerosols) [Internet]. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 2020 [cited 2021 Apr 28]. Available from: https://www.sdpt.net/rd/Aerosol_101.pdf
7. European Aerosol Federation. Guide on Inhalation Safety Assessment for Spray Products. 2013.
8. EPA. Instructions for Adding Electrostatic Spray Application Directions for Use to Antimicrobial Product Registrations [Internet]. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 28]. Available from: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/instructions-adding-electrostatic-spray-application-directions-use
9. WHO. Space spray application of insecticides for vector and public health pest control [Internet]. World Health Organization - WHO. 2003 [cited 2021 May 1]. p. 45. Available from: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/68057/WHO_CDS_WHOPES_GCDPP_2003.5.pdf?sequence=1

If there were a theme song for the past few months, I think we would all agree it would be something closely resembling Hear Comes the Sun, the classic by the Beatles. The smiles are returning, and it certainly feels like years since the long, cold lonely COVID-19 winter began! However, as a public health professional, I wish we were all singing the 80’s classic Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey because this epidemiologist wants you holding on to the feeling of hygiene. I want us, though we are excited to re-open, to remember what we have learned and continue to embrace the public health awareness brought on by the pandemic.

But I cannot say everyone agrees. In the past few weeks, the number of articles written to combat “Hygiene Theater” disinfection antics is increasing at an alarming pace.1,2 The pendulum of public opinion is swinging and we are ready to move into the future by returning to the pre-2020 “normal” instead of a “new normal” as I had hoped. As I sit here contemplating how to articulate why I feel strongly we should not return to old behavior, I need to pause to reach for a tissue. I have a cold. This is a strange and rare phenomenon lately, but I have concerns it will soon be a wide-spread experience as more of us begin to re-emerge from our homes and our careful precautions give way to old habits. Instead, my hope is that as we enter a post-pandemic world, we bring forth the lessons we have learned over the past year to create a healthier future for all.

Here’s what we know: COVID-19 can be transmitted on surfaces, but it is unlikely to be the main source of transmission.

We all remember the early days of the pandemic when we would wipe down our groceries, packages, and lived in constant fear of catching the virus. We did this because we did not yet know enough about this emerging pathogen and we wanted to protect our loved ones. We now know much of this was unnecessary as the principal mode of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is through exposure to respiratory droplets in the air and not through surfaces (or fomites).3 Though some might call this theater, I think it was simply our attempt to mitigate the risk of a very scary pathogen from entering our homes. Similarly, out of this fear and with a hope to restart our economy during a pandemic, our communities and businesses went into disinfection and sanitization overdrive (i.e., Hygiene Theater).

If a business is purely using disinfectants for show and more importantly, not using them safely and in accordance with label instructions, then I believe we will all lose sight of the lessons we have learned over the past year.

In this way, I agree with many voicing their concerns publicly. However, we cannot just throw away the public health awareness we have gained over the past year and we cannot make the mistake of thinking COVID-19 is the only pathogen posing a threat to our future health, safety and economy. My optimism on this subject in my November Hygiene Theater Blog still holds true today. We have an opportunity to turn this heightened awareness of germ transmission into actionable infection prevention in our communities.

Over the past year, we have also seemingly forgotten about all the other microbes and pathogens that live and thrive on our surfaces. 

Illnesses such as the Flu have virtually been wiped out by our COVID-19 precautions but as evidenced by my current nasal congestion, they have not gone away and will return to our spaces with us. Norovirus, for example, is a virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea and thrives on surfaces in areas where large numbers of people congregate. Norovirus outbreaks are common and frequently found on cruise ships, in long term care facilities, and in school and childcare settings. You may hear norovirus illness referred to as “food poisoning,” “stomach flu,” or “stomach bug” and because of the large number of variants, we can be infected repeatedly.Close quarters, shared spaces, and high-touch surfaces make it easy for norovirus to spread.

Although the number of norovirus outbreaks have been drastically reduced during the pandemic, norovirus, on average, each year results in over 19 to 21 million cases of vomiting and diarrhea in the United States. It is estimated by the age of five, 1 in 110,000 children will die and 1 in 160 will be hospitalized due to norovirus.4 In 2016, researchers estimated that norovirus resulted in a total of $4.2 billion in direct health system costs and $60.3 billion in societal costs (including productivity loss and income) per year.5

People are ready to return to normal life and we have an opportunity to impact what that looks like.

We must, now more than ever, implement sanitation protocols and base them on risk assessments and scientific evidence. One of the best examples of this is hand hygiene. The simple act of washing our hands more frequently is our first line of defense yet hand hygiene compliance rates are low and we often contaminate surfaces without even realizing it. In fact, nearly 80% of infectious diseases are spread by our hands and the surfaces we touch.6 This is why surface disinfection is such a critical tool in our efforts to break the chain of infection. Our approach to the use of disinfectants and sanitizers needs to be in a way that is not only effective but also efficient. This involves prioritizing places where the risk of pathogen spread is greater, like high traffic, shared spaces, and frequently touched surfaces. By utilizing SMART Disinfection practices (think “work smarter, not harder”), we can target disinfecting higher risk areas to reduce pathogen transmission while also optimizing the use of disinfectants and hopefully preventing concerns of overuse in our communities.

The curtain might be closing on COVID-19 theater, but that doesn't mean our work is done.

References

1.       Thompson D. Deep Cleaning Isn’t a Victimless Crime The CDC has finally said what scientists have been screaming for months: The coronavirus is overwhelmingly spread through the air, not via surfaces. [Internet]. The Atlantic. 2021. Available from: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/end-hygiene-theater/618576/

2.          Anthes E. Has the Era of Overzealous Cleaning Finally Come to an End? [Internet]. The New York Times. [cited 2021 Apr 23]. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/08/health/coronavirus-hygiene-cleaning-surfaces.html

3.          CDC. Science Brief: SARS-CoV-2 and Surface (Fomite) Transmission for Indoor Community Environments - Updated Apr. 5, 2021 [Internet]. Centers for Disease Crontrol and Prevention. 2021. p. 5. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/science-and-research/surface-transmission.html

4.          CDC. Norovirus Burden of Norovirus Illness in the U.S. CDC [Internet]. Centers for Disease Crontrol and Prevention. 2020 [cited 2021 Apr 23]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/trends-outbreaks/burden-US.html

5.          Bartsch SM, Lopman BA, Ozawa S, Hall AJ, Lee BY. Global economic burden of norovirus gastroenteritis. PLoS One [Internet]. 2016; Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27115736/

6.          Healthcare T-C. Gross! Hand hygiene and other germy facts [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2021 Apr 29]. Available from: https://www.tchc.org/blog/2018/12/12/hand-hygiene-and-germ-facts/

Over the past year, the use of cleaning and disinfection products has skyrocketed. Many people have become concerned about the ingredients in disinfectant products and whether it is safe to use them as frequently as we have been. First and foremost, disinfectants and sanitizers are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are subjected to intense scrutiny by the agency as well as by state regulators. All EPA-registered disinfectant products are safe to use as directed. However, until recently, consumers were not assured of their right to know what is in these products, which may have prevented people from making their own informed choices.      

What is the law that mandates disclosure of cleaning product ingredients?

SB258 is a piece of legislation from the State of California that impacts the cleaning and disinfection industry throughout the United States. SB258, also called the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017, requires manufacturers to disclose on a product label and on the product’s web site information regarding chemicals found in the product. Products listed as disinfectants, which are EPA-registered, are not required to print ingredients on the product label, however, they must comply with full online disclosure of ingredients.

Under this law, cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants have been required to disclose ingredients online since January 1, 2020. Cleaners will also need to disclose ingredients on the product label by January 1, 2021, but EPA-registered disinfectants are exempt from the requirement to disclose on the product label. See the table below for a helpful summary.

Product TypeDisclose Ingredients OnlineDisclose Ingredients on Product Label
CleanerJanuary 1, 2020January 1, 2021
EPA-registered disinfectantJanuary 1, 2020EXEMPT

Companies are required to disclose more than just ingredients added to a product

Under SB258, manufacturers are required to disclose online:

Where can I find ingredient information?

All ingredient disclosure information should be available on, or accessible from, a product website. The Clorox Company and several other companies use a third-party hosting site, called Smart Label (http://smartlabel.org/), to list ingredient disclosures for each of its products. Other companies may list their ingredients directly on the product website or on the SDS for the product.

Ingredient disclosure is law but, unfortunately, not all companies have made it easy to find this information. Look for labels like “ingredient disclosure,” “product details,” “ingredient list” and “designated lists,” or explore other tabs on a product website like “Safety Information.” If you are unable to find an ingredient disclosure for a product you are interested in, reach out to their customer service representatives to request the information.

Try for yourself!

Check out any of CloroxPro’s product webpages and click “View Ingredients” to explore ingredient disclosures on the Smart Label website.

References

1. SB-258 Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2021, from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB258

This last year has been incredibly hard, but the future looks a little brighter. With the number of vaccinations increasing significantly every day, and the CDC’s new guidance on how kids can safely return to school, there is a real reason to be hopeful that we are heading toward better times, and into our long anticipated “new normal.”

For those of us in the cleaning industry, the future presents us with another glimmer of hope. The pandemic brought to light the importance of cleaning, not only for aesthetics and building preservation, but also for health. In fact, it can be argued that the public had very little knowledge and appreciation of cleaning for health prior to the pandemic. Hundreds if not thousands of articles have been written about cleaning for health, and terms like “disinfecting” and “contact time” (also called “dwell time” or “wet time”) are now household words.

Google trends graph for the search term "cleaning and disinfecting" from 2018 through 2020 (accessed via https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US March 20, 2021)

This public awareness has spilled over into the commercial cleaning industry, and businesses have adapted to ensure they are addressing their customer’s concerns and desires for cleaner environments. As a result, the focus on cleaning has increased and I don’t know about you, but as a consumer and public health professional, I LOVE where we are heading. Gone are the days of grimacing every time I need to pump gas or put my pin number into one of those retail or gas station keypads. We have COVID-19 to thank for this new awareness, and I do not want to go back!

But with progress comes reflection, and it is important to recognize that, while we’ve come a long way, we are not done yet. While “disinfecting” and “contact time” may be household words, there are still far too many accounts of misinformation and inappropriate cleaning practices. Some examples include:

Not only are these examples problematic from a resource perspective, but they have caused many to question the true value of cleaning, leading to concerns about “Hygiene Theater.”

Clearly, there is more work to do.  If we want to see the positive changes from COVID-19 continue post-pandemic, we must prioritize correcting the misinformation and inappropriate practices. Here is what I recommend:

COVID-19 is not the first pandemic, and it certainly will not be the last. Many public health professionals are already working on advocating for better preparedness because it is clear now that the lack of preparation was, at least in part, the cause of so much devastation. The cleaning industry can also help prepare, starting with remaining vigilant with the progress we have made. Yes, we have made great progress, but our journey to be as good as we can be is not quite over yet.

For help with preparing for the New Normal, including the area risk assessment tool I mentioned above, please visit our website: https://www.cloroxpro.com/resource-center/preparing-for-the-new-normal/.

 “Never a doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a number of insights, including the many ways in which schools are important for the health of our children. With the closing of schools to address the spread of COVID-19 infection, a growing body of evidence and expert consensus agree that in-person schooling is critical to the health and development of children. On February 12, 2021, the CDC released updated guidance pushing for reopening schools during COVID-191-2.

What is the basis for the new recommendation that schools can reopen safely?

Many studies have been published recently showing that young children (particularly those in elementary school) are not strong drivers of community transmission of COVID-19. These data suggest that it is possible to reopen schools safely, as long certain mitigation measures are in place to protect teachers, students and school staff. Such measures include physical distancing, wearing masks, improving ventilation, and a focus on effective cleaning and disinfection practices. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) summarized the literature on COVID-19 infection rates in schools3. The authors found that in several schools in the US, school attendance was not associated with increased risk of infection in the school or in the community. Furthermore, in schools with high mask adherence, COVID-19 incidence was lower than in the surrounding community.

What is the new guidance from the CDC?

The new guidance says that schools can reopen safely and provides different strategies to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks based on several factors, including the level of community transmission, the use of COVID-19 testing and screening, and the grade level of the students. For example, elementary schools can be open for some in-person schooling even in communities where COVID-19 transmission is high. By contrast, a high school in a community with moderate COVID-19 transmission may have less in-person schooling.

Overall, the major recommendations for operating schools safely include:

With the above mitigation measures in place, CDC does not recommend that vaccination of teachers, staff, and students be a requirement for reopening. However, CDC does recommend that teachers and staff be given priority for vaccination.

CDC recommends daily cleaning and disinfecting of schools and more frequent disinfecting of high-touch surfaces

As part of a layered mitigation strategy, the CDC has recommended daily cleaning and disinfecting of schools with more frequent disinfecting of high-touch surfaces (such as doorknobs, desk surfaces, sinks and faucets, shared materials, and playground equipment). End-of-day cleaning and disinfecting may still be managed by janitorial or custodial staff members; however, teachers and other school staff will likely need to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces during the school day. Teachers and other staff should be provided with training, materials, and appropriate personal protective equipment to clean and disinfect safely. General guidance for safe cleaning and disinfecting include:

REFERENCES

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Operational strategy for k-12 schools through phased mitigation. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/operation-strategy.html
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Operating schools during covid-19: CDC'S CONSIDERATIONS. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html
3. Honein, M. A., Barrios, L. C., & Brooks, J. T. (2021). Data and policy to guide opening schools safely to limit the spread of sars-cov-2 infection. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.0374

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