AWO Webinar On COVID-19 Cleaning Practices Draws Intense Interest
A webinar presented by the American Waterways Operators titled “COVID-19: Ask An Industrial Hygienist,” drew great interest from AWO members who attended, with half the session taken up with addressing members’ questions.
The webinar was presented by Dr. Christopher Kuhlman, a board-certified toxicologist and industrial hygienist who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona. He is a project toxicologist at CTEH, an environmental consulting firm based in Little Rock, Ark.
Much of Kuhlman’s presentation discussed information on COVID-19 that is gathered on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other resources. He noted that according to one study, by the 14th day after exposure, 99 percent of infected people will show symptoms. This is the basis for the 14-day quarantine recommendation.
He reviewed screening procedures for crewmembers and procedures for disinfecting a room or area. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of 370 disinfectants known to be effective against hard-to-kill viruses, including coronaviruses (which also include those responsible for the common cold and SARS). But many of them work in different ways, he said; it’s best to check the label to see whether they leave a film or residue that might need to be removed later. It’s especially advisable to use dry fogging applications in electronics rooms to avoid getting equipment wet.
In response to a question about whether it’s OK to open windows and aerate rooms or whether they should be closed, Kuhlman said it might be important to dry and disperse the disinfectant after it has worked. He said there was little or no evidence so far that the virus can lodge in air conditioning systems, although he said some clients of his firm ask for those to be serviced as well.
The coronavirus can live up to 48 hours on surfaces most likely to be found on a vessel, and that is the basis for a recommended two-day layup for vessels to be deep cleaned.
Some studies have shown the virus can be detected after up to three or four days on some metal and plastic surfaces, but Kuhlman cautioned that simply finding detectable RNA does not mean the virus is viable and can infect people. Fragments of detectable RNA were found aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess for up to 17 days. But to infect, the virus’s fragile shell of fats called lipids must be intact.In response to a question about whether ultraviolet light is effective against the virus, Kuhlman acknowledged that some hospitals have been using UV light to disinfect respirators, but he said not enough work has been done on how effective that is.
Should cleaning crews wear full personal protective equipment (PPE)? Kuhlman’s answer was, “That depends.” If you are cleaning a room an infected person was known to have occupied, probably yes. If you are prophylactically sanitizing a room, masks and gloves could be enough.AWO’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage can be found at www.americanwaterways.com/covid19.
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