How Dangerous Are Cleaning Products Environmental Hygiene Personnel Use?

Have the CDC and EPA given enough correct guidance on how to use cleaning products during the COVID-19 pandemic, or is it “fundamentally flawed”?

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, questions asked among environmental hygiene personnel were “Did the CDC and the EPA give enough guidance on how to use the proper cleaners? Were the disinfectants they recommended safe? Or were they dangerous and ineffective if not used correctly and with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)?”

Recently, Infection Control Today® (ICT®) spoke with ArrowClean CEO Rayne Guest, who wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about their suggestions for products to use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Guest said that neither governmental agency has responded to the core questions of the letter or any of the many letters she has written to the agencies on infection prevention topics.

In this exclusive interview, Guest explained that one “main point of the letter is that the EPA and the CDC told everybody that they should be using products that were on their list, which was kind of the holy grail of products that they said were safe and effective for use against COVID[-19]…Most of the products on the list cause respiratory issues, making people more susceptible to getting respiratory illnesses like COVID[-19] on the list. [The guidelines] listed the contact time it took to kill COVID[-19], an enveloped virus that is easy to kill. So [individuals] were only letting a product sit for more than just a spray and wipe. If they were letting it sit for a certain amount of time, they were letting it sit for the amount of time it takes to kill COVID[-19], which is not hard to kill. But the reality is [that] to use a disinfectant properly, you have to let it sit for the proper full contact time for its disinfection claims.”

What Guest wanted to accomplish with her letter to the CDC and the EPA was for the agencies to acknowledge and change their guidelines to the public about what disinfecting products to use and how to use them. She told ICT®, that the she believes CDC guidelines were “very misleading to the public. [They] went against infection prevention 101 in every way. So it was hard to see their public guidance because it was so fundamentally flawed.”

Guest told ICT® that her concerns and questions stem from her 15 years in the infection prevention and control business on the ground up and developing a technology attempting to help fight against infectious diseases and do something good for the environment. The products her company manufactures are not tested on animals.

In the interview, she also described what she considers proper disinfection protocol and how it differs from what the CDC is currently recommending.

“Before COVID came around, you heard the CDC say, 'Look, people need to use a disinfectant with the shortest contact time possible because as a society we're conditioned to spray and wipe, spray a product on a surface and wipe it up,'” Guest said. “Most disinfectants have a 10-minute contact time, meaning you have to let them sit on the surface for 10 minutes to be effective. Most of the products in our homes are this way, and a lot of products in healthcare are this way. During the pandemic, though, none of that guidance was given. [It was as if] they just forgot to tell [the public] about it. The only guidance they said is 'Be sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions.'

"But most [individuals] don't even comprehend the concept that something could take 10 minutes to work on a service. It's not how [companies] market their products and commercials. It's not what we grew up to see. So proper disinfection depends on the product. Some disinfectants are limited spectrum; some are broad spectrum, some are health care grade.”

"[The CDC’s and EPA’s guidance on disinfection products] went against infection prevention 101 in every way."

Guest describes her thoughts on what correct and careful disinfection means to health care professionals: “I would say proper disinfection means you use a health care-grade disinfectant, which is the most effective. It's tested against the toughest gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. And you choose one that is safest for your patients, for your employees, for your customers, for your staff. And you, hopefully, find one that's cost-effective, and you let it sit for the contact time, preferably the shortest contact time possible. And you follow those instructions.

"So proper disinfection is following the protocols that the disinfectant was tested to. And in order to do it properly, you want to choose the one with the shortest contact time and is safest for everyone,” Guest said.

ICT® has contacted the CDC and EPA for comment and will post if there is a response.