Is the Prevention As Bad As the CoronaVirus Disease?
Wendy Priesnitz - writer, editor, changemaker
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Is the Prevention As Bad As the Disease?

I’ve been seeing photos of people in hazard suits spraying everything in sight with unknown disinfectants in order to mitigate people’s exposure to the new coronavirus COVID-19. And we’re all being cautioned to disinfect our hands and our household surfaces on a regular basis. However, I worry about the long-term effects of the products that are being used, both outside and in people’s homes.

I and many others have written at length about the harm that can be done by household cleaners. But, as an example, take Lysol. In an investigative report by CBC in which levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) were measured, one type of Lysol spray was found to contain 1,200 parts per million. These levels are much higher than the 500 parts per billion considered safe for humans.

Its ingredients are said to include, among other chemicals, Ammonium Hydroxide, a suspected respiratory toxin that may be linked to bronchitis, pulmonary edema, emphysema, and cancer; N-alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chlorides, which can cause immunotoxicity, respiratory, skin, and organ toxicity, and asthma; and Dipropylene Glycol Butyl Ether, which has been linked to cancer, developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects, respiratory effects, nervous system effects, skin irritation/allergies, and damage to vision.

Children, because of their small size and still-developing bodies, are especially vulnerable to these products. For instance, a study published in February of 2020 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found an association between the use of household cleaning products early in life and risk of childhood asthma at age three.

Some people I’ve talked to about my concerns think that, in the wake of something as fast-moving and contagious as this virus, disinfection using these products is the lesser evil. I’m not so sure. I guess time will tell. But if you must expose yourself and your loved ones to these chemical disinfectants, please proceed carefully and thoughtfully.

As is my normal stance, and as someone who is in a high risk category, I’m feeling vulnerable to both the disease and some of the mitigation practices. But, yeah, I'm washing my hands and carefully choosing my company.

Wendy Priesnitz

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