(Bloomberg) — Businesses across the U.S. have begun intensive Covid-19 disinfection regimens, exposing returning workers and consumers to some chemicals that are largely untested for human health, a development that’s alarming health and environmental safety experts.
The rush to disinfect is well-intentioned. Executives want to protect employees while abiding by U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines (and to avoid liability). Pre-pandemic, corporate cleaning staffs typically “freshened” lobbies every three hours, sanitized restrooms every four hours and cleaned other areas at night, said Rich Feczko, national director of systems, standards and innovation at Crothall Healthcare, which cleans hundreds of hospitals, as well as offices and universities.
That pace has now accelerated. “Our frequencies have ramped up in public places like lobbies and elevators to 6-8 times per day,” said Feczko. Restrooms are cleaned every two hours. “Before the pandemic, clients were happy if their trash was emptied and vacuum marks were in the plush carpet,” said Jill Frey, owner of Ohio-based Cummins Facility Services. Now, customers ask for sanitization (reducing pathogens on a surface) and disinfection (killing all pathogens).
“This is a hazardous proposition,” said Dr. Claudia Miller, an immunologist, allergist and co-author of Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes. “Cleaners tend to go in with hugely toxic chemicals. We’re creating another problem for a whole group of people, and I’m not sure we’re actually controlling infections.”
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