Workers Health & Safety Centre

Safer COVID-19 disinfectants explored in WHSC webinar

COVID-19 precautions will be needed for some time. Now is a good time to reassess the effectiveness and safety of routine workplace measures especially the use of disinfectants.

In recent months, the increased use of disinfectants has led to some unintended consequences. Along with growing concerns about the development of resistant organisms, Health Canada also reports a spike in accidental poisonings in the use of cleaning products and disinfectants.

Possible longer-term health effects are just as troubling. Disinfectants contain powerful chemical ingredients needed to kill viruses. Some are more toxic than others. Studies link some common disinfectant ingredients to acute and chronic health effects including skin disease, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Others reveal evidence of potential reproductive harm.

Before a second wave of COVID-19 strikes, workplace joint health and safety committees and worker health and safety reps have time to reassess their disinfectant use and consider products that are effective and reduce workers’ exposure to toxins.

The WHSC webinar featured above explores these concerns and revisits others related to cleaning and disinfecting workplaces safely. Be sure to watch and share with others in your workplace and community.
Also available for downloading and sharing is the PowerPoint that supports this webinar and a number of related fact sheets:

A common cause of work-related asthma

Workers whose job involves cleaning and disinfecting can suffer a range of acute and chronic health effects from skin and lung irritation, to reproductive harm and even cancer. Cleaning and disinfecting products are the most common exposure causing work-related asthma in healthcare and education workers.
The most frequent exposures were surfactants, alcohols, disinfectants and acids. Some agents can cause allergic responses in both the skin and respiratory systems.
Another study found nurses who regularly used disinfectants were at a higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Specifically, disinfectants such as glutaraldehyde, hypochlorite bleach and quaternary ammonium compounds were associated with excess risk for developing COPD.

Workplace protocols

Workplace protocols for cleaning and disinfecting should assess a host of issues and also identify products that are effective for the prevention of both infection and occupational disease. One approach is to promote the use of products which contain fewer toxic ingredients.
The University of Washington Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences offers an excellent resource on safer cleaners and disinfectants. They recommend looking for approved disinfectants whose active ingredients include ethanol, isopropanol (isopropal alcohol), hydrogen peroxide, L-Lactic acid, or citric acid.

WHSC virtual training & COVID-19 docs

WHSC webinars, our virtual training classrooms and many COVID-19 resources are made available during these unprecedented and challenging times to help ensure workers, supervisors, joint health and safety committee members and others have access to a trusted source of training and information. Register today for any one of a growing list of WHSC virtual training classrooms. 

Follow us too on social media sites including TwitterFacebookYouTube and LinkedIn. There we share important news and insights.

WHSC role

As Ontario’s only designated health and safety training centre, WHSC supports workers, their representatives, supervisors, contractors and employers in every work sector with comprehensive training programs and information services. In all we do, we put workers first.  After all, it is their lives and livelihoods that are affected most when workplace hazards, including the COVID-19 virus go uncontrolled.

To learn more: 
Call: 1-888-869-7950