The following press release was published by CEPA Member ANECPLA, the Spanish Association of Pest Management on April 15th 2020:
When the cure can be worse than the disease: coronavirus, use of farmers' tractors for disinfection and other risks
- The National Association of Environmental Health Companies (ANECPLA) recognises the good intention of farmers who offer their tractors for cleaning up the coronavirus but warns of the risks that unprofessional execution can cause.
- Improper use of the products used can put the health of people on the roads and the environment at risk.
- Likewise, ANECPLA denies that any disinfectant has residual capacity - so no treatment guarantees protection once it has been performed - and insists on the importance of not relaxing prevention measures.
At a time as difficult as the present, when the coronavirus pandemic has paralysed all our activity and has taken the lives of thousands of people in our country, there have been a series of solidarity and mutual support initiatives that try to soften this harsh reality. However, on some occasions, this type of gesture laden with goodwill can lead to serious consequences that are not contemplated.
The National Association of Environmental Health Companies warns that an example of this could be the daily sweeping of public spaces by many farmers in many municipalities throughout Spain, throwing a mixture of hypochlorite and water against the coronavirus. This is what the general director of ANECPLA, Milagros Fernández de Lezeta, says, warning that "by trying to control one risk, even greater ones can be generated".
"Without a doubt, these are laudable initiatives that, once again, show how our society is determined to act together when it comes to taking action and facing up to this fatal pandemic. However, when it comes to disinfecting spaces, we must not forget that only the right action and procedure will ensure the expected result" explains Fernández de Lezeta.
In the case of disinfection of public roads, the Ministry of Health recommends disinfection with 0.1% sodium hypochlorite by application with backpack sprays (20 ml. of common bleach per liter of water). "Any chemical used incorrectly has a risk", continues the general director of ANECPLA, "lye is classified as a corrosive product and dangerous for aquatic fauna and, therefore, it is very important that it be used in the effective dose against COVID-19 and by means of localised application systems. Otherwise, improper use can endanger human health and cause serious consequences for aquatic fauna, as well as a harmful environmental impact".
ANECPLA also reminds that, following the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health, it is essential to wash and sweep the streets beforehand, otherwise the disinfection will not be effective. And they add that in any case, disinfections in the streets are always much more effective and safe if they are carried out by means of spraying techniques and using the recommended doses.
In this way, it will first be necessary to sweep (preferably wet to avoid possible dispersion) public roads, in order to eliminate the presence of residues and organic matter. Next, the streets will be cleaned with the trucks available for this purpose, using water with the specific surfactant detergents for cleaning the roads. After that, disinfection with 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (20ml of common bleach per litre of water) can be carried out by application with spraying backpacks. For the application of this spraying, operators should be provided with adequate personal protective equipment.
"It is important that everyone cooperates to avoid an increase in the number of infections..." acknowledges Fernández de Lezeta, "...but sometimes, in order to control a risk, other greater ones can be triggered. Following the whole protocol is fundamental but, even more important, is that the work is carried out by professionals with the proper training and accreditation who know the products and the recommended doses, so that they can not only provide a good service, but also do not put their own safety at risk, nor the health of people who walk the streets at the same time as the treatment is being carried out, do not deteriorate urban equipment and furniture, and do not damage the environment".
In addition to roads, surface disinfection is particularly recommended in more sensitive areas in the current situation, such as the proximity of health centres, large supermarkets and food distribution centres, as well as areas of the city with fixed urban settlements or homeless people's overnight stays. Sergio Monge, president of ANECPLA, indicates that "for this disinfection of surfaces of benches, street lamps, or any other element of the furniture in the public thoroughfare, virucidal disinfectants authorised by the Ministry of Health will have to be used".
Another of the risks that the National Association of Environmental Health Companies considers important to focus on is the false belief that, once certain spaces have been disinfected, these guarantee their protection for a period of time. "No disinfectant has residual capacity. This means that at that time it is against the viruses it comes into contact with but its activity does not remain over time. Disinfection treatments carried out in the street ensure a decrease in the viral load that was present at the time of disinfection, but nothing else," Monge explains.
Now that since last Monday many individuals have returned to their jobs, it is as necessary as it is for them to resume their activity with the protective equipment and hygiene measures that guarantee safety, that is the maintenance of the disinfection work, warns ANECPLA. This is what Milagros Fernandez points out, who warns that "to think that once we have carried out disinfection work in a given space it is immunised against future threats from the virus would be an unforgivable mistake. We insist that the disinfection work in the work spaces that are being used should not be relaxed". And she points out, "the same must be borne in mind in public spaces such as stations or public transport that are again more crowded, as well as spaces of intensive use during this pandemic such as health centres, or places of special risk such as nursing homes".
From ANECPLA they want to remember that the disinfection work should not, however, make citizens less cautious, but "from the individual we must remain alert and continue with this new acquired habit of washing our hands with soap and water assiduously, avoid touching our eyes, mouth or nose with our hands, disinfect the surfaces most likely to be touched in our homes, and many others that have become part of our daily lives" says Monge. "It seems that the disinfection activities and all the other actions that have been put in place are starting to pay off. This downward trend should not, however, cause us to lower our guard in terms of sanitation and disinfection routines. It is vital that we all continue with these tasks in order to definitively eradicate the spread of this dangerous virus in the shortest time possible."
At the same time, they recommend avoiding hiring companies that are not duly accredited, for which they recommend going to the companies included in the Official Register of Biocide Establishments and Services (ROESB), given that in recent weeks cases of intrusion have been detected in the disinfection sector of certain companies in various sectors that do not specialise in disinfection (gardening, swimming pools...) or workers from other unauthorised groups, without the training, products or specific equipment both for the work of disinfection and for the protection of individuals.
ANECPLA is the National Association of Environmental Health Companies. Established in 1992, it brings together almost 500 companies that represent approximately 85% of the turnover of the sector in Spain. Its main objectives are to consolidate a professional sector that looks after public health and the environment and to fight against intrusion.