The Environmental Impact of Disinfectants

Choosing a type of disinfectant in today’s virus stricken world is no easy task. Your products should clean effectively and be safe for use. However, the added need for clean during the pandemic is taking a toll on the environment. As we fight COVID-19, we’re fighting against the planet, too.

Disinfectants can be broken down into two major groups, oxidizing and non-oxidizing. Oxidizing disinfectants destroy all cellular matter with no exceptions, while non-oxidizing disinfectants prevent metabolic pathways needed for the cell to survive. Oxidizing disinfectants, such as Hydrogen Peroxide, are effective until they come into contact with substances other than toxins, such as food residue. Non-oxidizing disinfectants such as Quaternary Ammonium Compounds are more effective, but far more deadly for the environment.

Unfortunately, many of the non-oxidizing disinfectants we choose are highly irritating, corrosive, and have lasting irreversible effects on the environment and people. Strong disinfectants are toxic and biocidal.

Though sometimes necessary to kill bad bacteria, disinfectants can also destroy the good bacteria that support biodiversity. These chemicals have been known to cause cancer and mutations in animals. As they accumulate in the food chain, eventually these chemicals will be consumed by humans.

As we attempt to rid the planet of the pandemic, our ecosystems and water systems are being flooded with toxins.

Chlorine-releasing agents, oxidizing agents, and quaternary ammonium cations affect biodiversity as animals in urban areas go deeper into the cities during lockdown. For example, chlorine disinfectants harm mammals, birds, and water animals with respiratory/digestive lesions and death. We’re already starting to see the impact of increased use of disinfectants in China. Recently, hundreds of animals belonging to 17 different species were found to have died due to the overuse of disinfectants in Chongqing.

Knowing how to clean and use disinfectants properly is a first step in the path to protecting our environment. Avoid disinfectants with high chemicals and choose a “green” option in the following situations:

• To wipe down high-touch areas
• When food is present
• In areas where children or pets play
• To clean up dirt or stains

Only use high-powered, chemical-heavy disinfectant when you need to sterilize something.

Using green disinfectants, such as citric acid, will protect the environment, can reduce costs, safeguard human and animal health, and improve indoor air quality.

Talk with a Global Sourcing representative to discuss what disinfecting products your company needs. 

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