When you go out to eat or visit the grocery store, you’ll probably spot an employee wiping down tables or spraying carts with disinfectant. These sanitizers can kill the novel coronavirus, but doctors warn some can also cause chemical burns and allergic reactions on your skin.
“Depending on the strength of these disinfectants, they can cause damage to the skin. They can react like a burn would, which can appear with significant redness or swelling to the skin,” said Dr. Frederick Davis, who works in the emergency department at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
One Florida family believes their baby got a chemical burn after sitting in a Walmart cart sprayed with disinfectant.
Davis said alcohol, bleach and ammonia, often used in commercial sanitizers, can create that reaction.
“A lot of these cases, unfortunately, happen because people think it’s a disinfectant, it kills bacteria and viruses, it’s safe to apply to the skin, but it definitely isn’t,” he said.
Environmental Biology Professor at the University of Arizona Dr. Charles Gerba said commercial disinfectant can be harmful to skin until it dries completely.
“You don’t want to put the child down in the seat if it’s wet with disinfectant,” warned Gerba.
Parents should dry carts or any surface covered in disinfectant before letting kids touch them, but experts caution, disinfectants may not work properly if they cannot dry on their own.
So, to keep your kids safe and kill the germs, Dr. Gerba recommends placing a towel down in the cart or using a baby wipe to remove harsh chemicals that can build up over time.
“That’s one of my concerns,” said Gerba. “You keep adding these chemical disinfectants on every single day, they’re subject to misuse, like not drying enough, so you might get some exposure,” he said.
Because of these dangers, Dr. Gerba is experimenting with a replacement for commercial grade sanitizers with a company called Allied Bioscience. It’s a spray coating that sticks to any surface, even touch screens, and kills bacteria and viruses for months at a time.
“It’s the same principle as odor eater socks,” said Gerba. “The reason the socks didn’t smell is it killed the bacteria that caused the odors,” he explained.
Michael Ruley is the CEO of Allied Bioscience and said he hopes this coating will make its way onto airplanes, into schools and grocery stores soon.
“With this coating going down, it gets ahead of the threat and is proactive instead of reactive,” Ruley said.
This new technology is still getting approved by the EPA, but studies show it can fight the coronavirus.
“They killed the coronavirus pretty well, like 99 percent or more, within a few minutes sometimes,” Gerba said.
This product needs to be applied once every 90 days to remain effective, which would lift much of the workload off employees to clean places.
“That’s the whole goal is to get people back feeling comfortable in the environment and be able to go out and enjoy their environment,” said Ruley.
But until the frequent sanitizing ends, Dr. Gerba warns just because a surface is clean, doesn’t mean it’s safe for you or your kids to touch. He said the best way to protect your skin is to immediately wash your hands after touching anything that’s been sanitized.