A Quick Guide for Selection and Use of Approved Covid-19/Coronavirus Disinfectants

As we discussed previously, routine or periodic cleaning and disinfection are an important part of an overall workplace Coronavirus safety program, along with hand washing, social distancing and source control measures such as mask use. Additional cleaning and disinfection can be considered in work areas if one or more workers contract Coronavirus.

According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html, the first step to disinfect a surface is cleaning with soap and water to remove dirt and dust and reduce the amount of virus on the surface followed by application of application of approved disinfectant.

No matter how they are applied, Covid disinfection requires use of approved disinfectants, including 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) or 70% alcohol (Ethanol or Isopropyl Alcohol)

To prepare a 0.1% bleach solution, mix:

Make sure to check the expiration date on your bleach container. Also, the bleach solution degrades over time so ACTenviro recommends making new solution every 24 hours as needed. Finally, pay attention to safety. Bleach is corrosive so wear appropriate PPE, including gloves, eye/face protection, mix outsider or in areas that have good ventilation, have spill supplies available and never mix bleach with ammonia or anything other than water!

For surfaces or locations where bleach is not suitable, 70% alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl alcohol) may be used, although these flammable liquids have their own set of safety issues.

The EPA also maintains a list of disinfectants that are anticipated to be effective against Covid/Coronavirus – EPA List N – Approved for “Emerging Viral Pathogens”

Specific products are shown on List N, however other products with the same active ingredient (based on the product’s EPA registration number) can also be used.

Keep in mind though that Manufacturer’s instructions must be followed and use of any of these materials should be reviewed to determine if additional PPE (including respiratory protection) is required.

Still have questions? See our previous post that looked at cleaning and disinfection requirements or stay tuned for our next post where we will talk about at validation and how to make sure that your cleaning and decontamination process is effective.

How To Dispose Of Fluorescent Tubes

Fluorescent tubes are more energy-efficient and cost-effective compared to incandescent bulbs and are used in many homes and businesses. They generally last anywhere between 15,000 to 20,000 hours.

Fluorescent lights must be disposed of or recycled properly because they contain mercury. Unlike chemicals that are visible or that emit a strong odor, when mercury is spilled, it forms vapors that are invisible, almost undetectable (except with the use of specialized equipment) and completely odorless. Exposure to mercury, even in small amounts, can cause serious health problems.

Disposal And Recycling Of Fluorescent Lamps & Tubes

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) provides the following guidelines for fluorescent tube disposal:

These guidelines apply to fluorescent tubes, including low mercury tubes, compact fluorescents, including low mercury lamps as well as:

In case of accidental breakage:

Where Can You Recycle Fluorescent Tubes?

The U.S. EPA recommends using the Earth911 database to locate the nearest recycling solution to you. You only need to enter your ZIP code and a list of recycling or household hazardous waste collection centers will be provided.

Alternatively, you may call 1-800-CLEAN-UP to access the same information.

Disposal of Fluorescent Tubes Regulations

The EPA notes that some states and local jurisdictions may have stricter regulations regarding the disposal of fluorescent tubes and other hazardous wastes, including mandated recycling. Your local waste collection agency should be able to tell you about the particulars of such disposal of fluorescent tubes regulations in your state or locality.

To date, the following jurisdictions have laws that regulate mercury-containing products. These include prohibitions on the discarding of mercury-containing fluorescent tubes into landfills and mandate their recycling:

Mercury and Toxicity

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), fluorescent tubes contain minute amounts of mercury, an average of about four milligrams per glass tubing. This amount can be released into the environment when the glass tubes break and are dangerous because mercury is a known neurotoxin.

In vapor form, it is easily absorbed by the human body through the various mucus membranes and the lungs. It is also a pollutant in bodies of water, which are ingested by fish that are part of the human diet. 

The clinical significance of exposure to smaller amounts of mercury is controversial, but these can accumulate, and the results can be severely damaging. 

After entering the human body through the respiratory or digestive systems, mercury then breaches the blood-brain barrier and targets the brain. It causes a wide array of health issues but is most pronounced in causing cerebral palsy and other neurocognitive damage in unborn children.

Large-scale releases of mercury have also been the cause public health disasters, including in Iraq and in Japan.

In Iraq, mercury poisoning killed hundreds (possibly thousands) of Iraqis in 1971 through consumption of grain treated with a deadly methylmercury fungicide that was never supposed to make its way into human consumption. Other serious symptoms included vision loss, numbness of the skin and may also cause congenital diseases in unborn babies.

In Japan, mercury-containing wastewaters from the Chisso Corporation contaminated Minamata bay from 1932 to 1968.  The mercury accumulated in shellfish and fish which, when eaten by the local population, resulted in mercury poisoning.  This came to be known as “Minamata Disease”.

Conclusion

While light-emitting diode (LED) lighting is becoming more and more cost-effective and energy-effective, fluorescent tubes are still used in many homes, offices and businesses.  

Once they are spent, they should be disposed of or recycled according to the relevant laws and regulations of the locality. Care should be taken that they do not break, and proper clean-up measures should be taken if they do.

Contact the nearest accredited fluorescent tube recycling facility or local government agency for up to date guidance on procedures, rules, and regulations since these can change from time to time. Remember, fluorescent tubes contain toxic mercury, and care should be taken that we do not risk our and the environment’s health.