The use of disinfectant tunnels can cause harm to humans especially if sodium hypochlorite or chorine are used in tunnels at public spaces. Doctors say sodium hypochlorite can cause skin and eye irritation. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the use of sodium hypochlorite, a key ingredient in bleach, only on surfaces, and in small quantities.
But with disinfectant tunnels coming up all across the country, health authorities are raising an alarm. In a note expressing concern and issuing a directive against its use, Dr K Kolandaswamy, Director, Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, government of Tamil Nadu, has directed the deputy director of health services in the state and to all concerned officials that these tunnels should not be used.
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The WHO in its advisory on use of disinfectant sprays, cautions that "spraying alcohol or chlorine all over the body will not kill viruses that have already entered the body." In fact, spraying them will be "harmful to the mucous membranes in eyes and mouth" though some of them could be used to disinfect surfaces.
In this note in possession of BusinessToday.In, it is pointed out that "disinfection tunnels create a false sense of security" and there is a risk of people diverting from the use of hand hygiene done using a hand wash and instead relying on the disinfectant tunnel, which may end up doing more harm than good. It says spraying "alcohol, chorine and Lysol," which apparently are also used, "is harmful for the human body and should not be used." Also, public places should not install them.
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On use of sodium hypochlorite, the WHO recommends only use on surfaces that too at 0.5 per cent (equivalent 5,000 ppm or parts per million) for disinfecting surfaces and 70 per cent ethyl alcohol for disinfection of small items. This alert is important as there seems to be growing perception that disinfectant tunnels are the best option for sanitation at public places.
A PIB note on April 9 on behalf of the ministry of housing and urban affairs titled "C-19: Disinfection of public spaces in smart cities' says, "Cities are taking up innovative approaches for disinfection of public places using sodium hypochlorite. Tiruppur has recently implemented a disinfection tunnel, which is now replicated in numerous cities at their agricultural/ vegetable markets. Modeled on this, various establishments entrusted with provision of essential services are deploying the disinfection chambers." One only hopes the caution suggested by the WHO and concerns raised now will not bring in greater caution and awareness in the potential harm that disinfectant tunnels can cause.
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