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What to keep in mind when purchasing spray guns to combat COVID-19

Looking at nanospray guns, disinfectant sprayers, and electrostatic sprayers to combat COVID-19? Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

COVID-19 has taught us the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene. Wearing a face mask drastically reduces the risk of both transmitting and inhaling the virus which might linger in the air in the form of droplets. Soaping up the hand eliminates the virus which might have come into contact with our extremities through touching and rubbing on surfaces. These ritualistic habits by now are vital preventive steps as we navigate life under the imposing shadow of COVID-19.  

Building management and businesses have taken their own proactive steps at preventing the spread of the virus. An inexpensive gizmo at their disposal is the spray gun. It goes by many names – disinfectant machines, spray guns, disinfectant sprayers, sanitising guns, vaporisers, and so on. Different terms but all the same breed and purpose. Their ubiquitous presence can be seen as employees glean through mail parcels, lift buttons, door handles; and at times, you have to walk through airport security-like disinfection tunnels to enter a restaurant.

An electrostatic sprayer works by applying a small electrical charge to aerosols to encourage charged droplets to adhere to environmental surfaces, while the common fogging device uses a fan and a liquid solution to create mist. Some 2-in-1 devices combine both misting and UV lamps for a compounding effect. 

No, not like this… Image: Courtesy Curology/Unsplash

On a psychological level, they do a wonderful job at reassurance, but the greater question is whether they are safe and effective? Can they really fumigate the virus? 

Not all UV rays are equal 

While it is common knowledge UV rays can reduce the proliferation of germs and bacteria on surfaces, not all UV rays are equally effective at annihilation. Broadly speaking, UV rays can be distinguished by their respective wavelengths – UVA, UVB and UVC.  

UVC is the most perilous of all. However, due to it having the shortest wavelength, UVC is unable to penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere in normal circumstances, unlike UVA and UVB. According to the United State Food and Drug Administration, UVA is responsible for skin ageing and the risk of developing skin cancer, while the more potent UVB is proven to cause DNA damage and presents a risk in the development of skin cancer and cataracts. While UVC can cause severe burns to the skin and eyes, it is the most effective of all three types of UV rays at neutralising the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. 

Furthermore, UVC lamps may generate ozone, which can cause irritation upon inhaling, as well as degrade materials such as plastics and dyed textiles. Some UVC lamps may also contain mercury. 

Spraying disinfectants on the body 

While bleach is effective at cleaning tarnished surfaces and soiled clothes, training chlorine dioxide or hydrogen peroxide on people can be hazardous. Spraying any chemical on a person, particularly delicate areas such as eyes, and breathing in the chemical compounds are best avoided. Accidental ingestion may also occur if the mouth isn’t covered.

Some spray guns that utilise ethanol in lieu of bleach can also instigate irritation. In enclosed spaces where ventilation is poor, suspended aerosols may linger. For asthmatic people, there is also the possibility of developing respiratory complications. 

The right way of using spray guns against COVID-19

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises due care when using a spray gun. This includes the concentration of the solution, contact with the solution, the duration spent in the room where fumigation is carried out, and whether the person employed to carry out fumigation is duly dressed such as wearing a face mask, gloves or PPE.  

When determining the solution, you should also consider whether it is safe for food contact surfaces and children. The aerosolized disinfectants too may land on food.  

In many instances, a simple act of wiping a surface with ethanol or soap thoroughly is sufficient at neutralising any germ or bacteria and significantly reducing virus exposure. But if spray you must, bear in mind the above.

Hero and feature images: Courtesy JESHOOTS.COM/ Unsplash

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur.