Yes, we are all sick of the COVID conversations, but one thing this pandemic has shown us is that we were grossly unprepared and uneducated when it came to the routine disinfecting of our bus fleets. So to ensure we are better prepared for the future, we must look at these basic questions:
- What were we doing prior to COVID-19 to prevent the spread of other bacteria and viruses like strep, staph and the flu?
- Are we really using the safest products to disinfect our buses?
- How efficient and effective are our spray applicators?
1. Pre- and Post-COVID Disinfecting Practices
Beyond cleaning products for the bathrooms, cafeterias and floors, the thought of disinfecting school buses was not on anyone’s radar. Putting resources towards wiping down every bus, every day was unheard of. However, without proper surface disinfecting, bacteria and viruses like strep and staph can stay on surfaces for days.
It doesn’t matter how much you clean and disinfect your schools and classrooms, if you aren’t disinfecting your bus fleets, your staff and students are still being exposed.
There will always be a need for daily surface disinfecting of your bus fleets. Even with onboard air purification systems that prevent the spread of COVID and other pathogens in the air, they do nothing to disinfect surfaces.
2. What is Considered a Safe Disinfecting Product?
Once COVID took over the world, every supervisor, director, superintendent and administrator looked to protect their students and their staff from the spread of COVID. But in doing so they unknowingly exposed them to toxic chemicals.
Brand-named products like Clorox, Zep and Lemon-Quat are all great disinfectants when used properly. But when applied as a mist or fog, they discharge toxic bleaches and ammonia into the air, increasing the risk of respiratory issues and skin/eye irritations.
In an article released by CleanLink, over 1,100 teachers were surveyed and reports ranged from using unknown products without proper training, to health issues related to spraying disinfectants in non-ventilated areas like classrooms and buses. In addition, studies found that once those chemicals dried, they created dust that could be inhaled and lead to other respiratory issues.
Additionally, the CDC Poison Control Center put out a report in April of 2020 that there had been a 20% increase in poisonings from the previous year due to cleaning and disinfectant products.
So beyond looking for the EPA List-N Number, which means the product has been registered and approved by the EPA to effectively kill bacteria and viruses like SAR_Co-V-2 (COVID-19), look for products that have the following safety ratings. Products with these ratings or labels have been evaluated and determined to have little to no adverse health effects.
- EPA Category IV Rating for Toxicity (Lowest Toxicity)
- FDA GRAS Rated (Generally Recognized As Safe)
- NSF International (Rates the Health and Safety of a Product)
- EPA Ecolabel Label
- Safety Data Sheet – Health Hazard, Fire Hazard, Reactivity (0, 0, 0)
Make sure whatever product you are using in close, non-ventilated areas (buses and classrooms) contains no bleaches, ammonia, alcohol or peroxides and does not require the use of respirators or eye protection.
While they may be more expensive, choosing “Green” disinfectants and cleaners will not only help prevent the spread of most bacteria, viruses and fungi but will provide a safer environment for staff and students alike.
Look for disinfectant products that are Ready to Use (RTU) or Ready to Pour (RTP) instead of concentrate – these products are premixed to provide maximum efficacy.
Also, make sure they are meant to be used as a mist or fog and don’t need to be wiped down or rinsed off. Concentrates, while less expensive, require mixing and risk diluting. Worse, incorporating too much product could result in damaging surfaces or causing other health issues.
3. What Should We be Using to Apply Disinfectants in our Buses?
Mist spray applicators should generate a fine mist and not saturate the surface. Drying time should be 2-3 minutes, so the “Garden Pump” type sprayers are typically not recommended. Be careful not to buy high-pressure units for use in close spaces like buses, as they are difficult to control the flow and typically will overspray.
Electrostatic sprayers are effective, but they require the surface to have a negative charge. So in the case of school buses where most surfaces are cloth and plastic and do not naturally carry a negative charge, you may not get the benefits you paid for. In addition, the electrostatic element may heat up the disinfectant and, depending on the active ingredients, could create toxic fumes.
An Ultra Low Volume (ULV) mist sprayer or a misting hand pump sprayer are ideal units in close spaces like a bus or even a classroom. They generate a fine mist that can be applied about two feet above the surface as a “Blanket Effect.” These are also typically your least expensive units. A 40-ft school bus can be safely disinfected in less than 1 minute using a ULV mist sprayer. Battery-operated units can last 45 minutes to an hour, allowing 45-60 buses to be disinfected per battery charge.
Onboard dispensing systems are also starting to emerge. While there are additional costs associated with these systems, they will be attractive alternatives for agencies with larger bus fleets to help relieve staff resource issues.
To learn more about our Surface Disinfectants, Mist Spray Applicators and On-Board Dispensing Systems, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.saluspg.com.