By Toby Drysdale
Yes, we are all sick of COVID Conversations – but this pandemic showed us that we were grossly unprepared and uneducated when it came to routine disinfecting of our bus fleets. To ensure we are better prepared for the future, we must look at these basic questions:
- What were we doing prior to COVID to prevent the spread of other bacteria and viruses like Strep, Staph and the Flu?
2. Are we really using the safest products to disinfect our buses?
3. How efficient and effective are our spray applicators?
#1 – Pre and Post COVID Disinfecting Practices:
Beyond cleaning products for your bus and maintenance facilities, the thought of disinfecting buses was not on anyone’s radar. Putting resources towards wiping down every bus, every day was unheard of. However, without proper surface disinfecting, bacteria and viruses like Strep and Staph can stay on surfaces for days and in some cases weeks or months. It doesn’t matter how much you clean and disinfect your facilities, if you aren’t disinfecting your bus fleets, your staff and passengers are still being exposed. There will always be a need for daily surface disinfecting of your bus fleets.
While there is an increased interest in on-board ionizing and hydrogen peroxide generating systems because of their claims to “sanitize and disinfect” both the air and surfaces, those technologies are still being evaluated. The amount of time it takes for the entire vehicle to be disinfected is subjective, and the long-term effects of constant exposure are still being reviewed. In some states like New York, these types of units are not allowed to be used on state funded vehicles (including public transit and school buses). Even On-Board Air Purification Systems that prevent the spread of COVID and other pathogens in the air, do nothing to disinfect surfaces.
#2 – What is Considered a Safe Disinfecting Product:
Once COVID took over the world, every supervisor, director, and administrator looked to protect their riders and their staff from the spread of COVID. But in doing so they unknowingly exposed them to toxic chemicals. Brand-named products like Clorox, Zep and Lemon-Quat are all great disinfectants when used properly. But when applied as a mist or fog, they discharge toxic bleaches and ammonias into the air, increasing the risk of respiratory issues and skin/eye irritations if proper PPE, Eye Protection and/or Respirators are not used.
As stated in the OSHA-NIOSH Info Sheet, “it is important to choose the least hazardous cleaning chemical that will accomplish the task at hand.” 1 Why use chemicals that can cause eye, lung, and skin irritation or require the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for application, when there are disinfectants available that do not pose these hazards. So beyond looking for the EPA List-N Number which means the product has been registered and approved by the EPA to effectively kill bacteria and viruses like SAR_Co-V-2 (COVID-19), look for products that have the following safety ratings. Products with these ratings or labels have been evaluated and determined to have little to no adverse health effects.
• EPA Category IV Rating for Toxicity (Lowest Toxicity)
• FDA GRAS Rated (Generally Recognized as Safe)
• NSF International (Rates the Health and Safety of a Product)
• EPA Ecolabel Label
• Safety Data Sheet – Health Hazard, Fire Hazard, Reactivity (0, 0, 0)
Make sure whatever product you are using in close, non-ventilated areas (buses and facilities) contains no bleaches, ammonias, alcohols, or peroxides and do not require the use of respirators or eye protection. While they may be more expensive, choosing “Green” disinfectants and cleaners will not only help prevent the spread of most bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but will provide a safer environment for staff and students alike.
Look for disinfectant products that are Ready to Use (RTU) or Ready to Pour (RTP) instead of concentrate, these products are premixed to provide maximum efficacy. Also make sure they are meant to be used as a mist or fog and do not need to be wiped down or rinsed off. Concentrates while less expensive, require mixing and risk diluting, or worse incorporating too much product could result in damaging surfaces or causing other health issues.
#3 – What Should We Be Using to Apply Disinfectants in our Buses?
Mist spray applicators should generate a fine mist and not saturate the surface. Drying time should be 2-3 minutes, so the “garden pump” type sprayers are typically not recommended. Be careful not to buy high pressure units for use in close spaces like buses, they are difficult to control the flow and typically will overspray. Electrostatic Sprayers are effective, but they require the surface to have a negative charge. So, in the case of buses where most surfaces are cloth and plastic and do not naturally carry a negative charge, you may not get the benefits you paid for. In addition, the electrostatic element may heat up the disinfectant, and depending on the active ingredients could create toxic fumes.
An Ultra Low Volume (ULV) Mist Sprayer or a Misting Hand Pump Sprayer are ideal units in close spaces like a bus or even a classroom. They generate a fine mist that can be applied about two feet above the surface a “Blanket Effect.” These are also typically your least expensive units. A 40-foot bus can be safely disinfected in less than 1 minute using a ULV Mist Sprayer. Battery Operated Units can last 45 minutes to an hour, allowing 45-60 buses to be disinfected per battery charge.
On-Board Dispensing Systems are also starting to emerge. While there are additional costs associated with these systems, they will be attractive alternatives for agencies with larger bus fleets to help relieve staff resource issues.
Toby Drysdale is owner of Salus Product Group and distributor of Pure Hard Surface Disinfectant. For more information, please visit www.saluspg.com or contact him at 833-725-8774 ext 700 or firstname.lastname@example.org