Use Caution When Using Disinfectant Sprays And Wipes Around Kids

February 10, 2020

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: February is the peak of flu season and is responsible for estimated 19 to 26 million illnesses and 10,000 to 25,000 deaths so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of course it is natural for you to take actions to protect yourself and your family from the flu.  But it is important to exercise some caution when using items labeled as “disinfecting,” particularly if you have children. While those easy-to-grab disinfecting wipes sold in cylindrical canisters, are simple to use, they also contain Environmental Protection Agency-registered pesticides. Some commonly used active ingredients in these products have been linked with health problems such as asthma—with long-term exposure. And experts we spoke with said that such risks may be greater for young children. Quaternary ammonium compounds—QACs or “quats” for short—are among the active ingredients that may be found in household cleaning products such as disinfecting wipes. They appear on labels with names such as alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, and other types of “benzyl ammonium chloride.” Much of the evidence about human health effects comes from studies of adults who work with disinfectants, in addition to research in labs. According to a 2019 analysis of the EPA Pesticide Product Labeling System, asthma occurs at higher rates in adults who use disinfectants and cleaners regularly for their jobs—such as janitors and healthcare workers—than in other workers. So be smart with these cleaners. Disinfecting is critical to limiting the spread of infection in settings such as healthcare and early childhood-care facilities. But for most people at home, cleaning alone—meaning the removal of dirt and other substances from a surface via scrubbing with soap and water—will remove plenty of worrisome germs. Certain situations call for the use of a disinfectant at home to prevent the spread of infection. An example, according to the CDC, is if someone in your house contracts the highly contagious and misery-inducing stomach bug norovirus. Any mess from vomit or diarrhea on a surface should be cleaned and then disinfected. If you decide to use disinfectant, be aware that surfaces you intend to disinfect should be cleaned first of any debris. Skin cells, for instance, a component of dust, can reduce the effectiveness of some disinfectants. To kill certain germs, disinfectants must be left wet on the surface for a number of minutes—check the product’s label for specific instructions on how long. That means you have to use enough of the product to keep the surface wet long enough for the active ingredients to take effect. Make sure young children are out of the room when you’re using disinfectants, and for a little while afterward. This will keep small hands from touching drying disinfecting fluid, and potentially getting it in their mouths.

SOURCE: Consumer Reports

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