With avian flu increasingly in the headlines, many facility professionals are incorporating this threat into their preparedness plans. Cleaning practices are one way to take preventive action. In the following article, Mike Sawchuk, vice president and general manager of Enviro-Solutions, a manufacturer of green cleaning products located in Peterborough, ON Canada, offers some advice.
The Cleaning Industry, Avian Flu, and Prevention
At the recent ISSA/INTERCLEAN Amsterdam tradeshow, one of the seminars discussed how the cleaning industry can react to—and possibly help prevent—the spread of avian (or bird flu), which has the potential of being the next big global health threat.
It is believed—and hoped—health officials around the world may be better prepared to handle the problem because of what was learned tackling the SARS epidemic that gripped large areas of the world a few years ago.
At that time, thousands of gallons of bleach were used to wash down all types of facilities, especially in Hong Kong. So much bleach was actually used that visitors and residents of Hong Kong complain they can still smell the bleach in many
facilities three years later.
Although bleach is a very effective, it can also be harmful to users and the environment, especially if used incorrectly. Now there are chemical alternatives that can have significantly less negative environmental impact.
For example, steps facility service providers can take to select alternatives to bleach and other harsh chemicals include:
• Work with local jansan distributors to determine the best cleaning agents for their facilities.
• Choose Green cleaning products certified by either The EcoLogo Program™ (The Environmental Choice Program), or Green Seal®, both of which are independent, third-party certifying organizations. Certification means these products are as effective as, and possibly superior to, conventional cleaning products used for the same purpose. Additionally, certification means they are proven safer for the users, building occupants, and visitors, as well as the environment.
• Look for high-performance cleaning products. The key is to use a cleaner that effectively removes soil, bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants in order to reduce cross-contamination.
• Where required, ensure that the specific sanitizer or disinfectant used is U.S. EPA and/or DIN (Drug Identification Number) registered to kill that specific virus.
• Follow label directions for dilution rates and dwell time (time required for the product to sit before wiping off or allowed to air dry).
Other steps the cleaning industry can incorporate include:
• Educate workers as to the importance of the situation. This will help prevent the “panic” atmosphere that occurred during the SARS outbreak and can lead to mistakes and overreaction.
• Have protective clothing, including gloves, goggles, masks, and other items, in adequate supply. During the SARS epidemic, many of these items were in short or limited supply.
• Auto-dispensing systems should be used to properly dilute all cleaning chemicals and help prevent waste.
• Go beyond traditional cleaning tasks such as cleaning telephones, light switches, remote controls, door handles, elevator buttons, and other areas not necessarily cleaned on a daily basis.
• Watch for damp areas or areas where moisture has accumulated. Germs and bacteria grow best in humid locations.
• Finally, one of the most important steps for cleaning professionals to take is to work closely with facility managers, building occupants, and others to help prevent the spread of disease. One of the most productive ways to alleviate the influence of the avian flu is to have all parties working together to protect the health of a facility and its occupants.