A Greener Way to Infection Control
by Judith Culp, CIDESCO Diplomate, NCEA Certified Esthetician
In the beauty industry preventing cross-contamination is the backbone of our successful operations. It is mandated by state rules and CDC guidelines. These regulations are good thing because they serve to keep us and our clients healthy. In today’s world, our practicing infection control is something that every client expects as routine. The only downside with infection control is that the majority of products available are corrosive, toxic and dangerous to skin, eyes, and clothing to say nothing about their potential environmental impact.
Usage directions for these products require personal protective equipment be used when mixing and handling, but this is often overlooked. The manufacturer’s directions typically require the surface be kept wet for 10 minutes and then to rinse thoroughly. With some surfaces this can be a challenge and 10 minutes can be a long time when another client is waiting for their service. While we don’t like to think about it, we have all seen situations where the process was abbreviated and both technician and client are at heightened risk. Disinfectants that work more quickly are generally more corrosive and that is not a good trade off. Autoclaves are less harsh, but they take even longer. Let us not forget that everything we use for cleaning in our facilities, clinics and spas MUST be EPA registered. We cannot use the stuff off the shelf from the store, unless it bears the EPA registered mark.
At this time when we and our customers are looking for more environmentally friendly, greener products what if there were an alternative for infection control? It would need to do the job quickly. It should not be harmful to touch, hazardous to use, or have nasty vapors, require no rinsing, but be EPA registered. It must be cost effective to use. It should be safe for use on our electronic equipment without damaging the plastic components or displays. It should be environmentally friendly. The exciting news is that such products do exist.
The discovery started well over half a century ago in a joint venture by Dow and Corning to provide a new class of materials for the military. The researchers turned to something called “organo functional silanes” which are a result of combining organic and silicon chemistry. This combined chemistry facilitates bonding so the products can be used as protectants in diverse applications. In simpler terms, this technology uses positive ionic bonding to adhere itself to a surface, or for components to adhere more tightly together.
The science has been well researched, documented and applied for over 50 years. It has been used extensively in the semi-conductor industry and is a key reason our microchips work so well. It is used in the garment industry to repel microbes and keep the garment fresh. In fact it is in many, many industries and manufactured products from rubber to glass. Its applications seem endless.
So how does it work for our industry? It is sprayed, or wiped on and allowed to dry which happens very quickly. Once dry the product has bonded to the surface it was applied to. Now it is like a barrier of positive ionic swords, or an electro-magnetic field, that attracts microbes and destroys them upon contact. Because this is a physical destruction there is no risk of microbial mutation. The process doesn’t dilute the barrier in any way so it continues protection undiminished. This is completely different from spraying a surface with a disinfectant that as soon as it is dry can be immediately contaminated again. The physical barrier keeps on killing microbes.
There are a number of formulators out there that utilize the same core technology but there are many variations between them. This technology puts down a barrier that can effectively continue its protection and destruction capabilities for a month or more. A single surface can be treated, or an entire facility. Whatever is treated attracts and destroying microbes. Variations on products have been created to meet diverse needs of hugely varying industries wanting to use the technology. Some products are specific for sensitive areas like where raw food is being prepared. There are cleaning/disinfecting products and there are products designed to be used on a pre-cleaned surface to form a long term result. There are products for use around electronics like telephones, computer keyboards and mice that also could be used to protect equipment, or disinfect tools and sharps. Some of the products can safely be applied to all color fast surfaces so literally every area within a facility could become a microbe destroyer.
When I got these products into my clinic I started at the front door and disinfected and protected all the surfaces clients might touch. Door knobs, the reception counter, telephones, computers, desk tops. After vacuuming I lightly misted the reception area including the seating and armrests – all the places clients touch with their hands. I moved on to the restrooms. After cleaning, the sinks, counters, faucets, toilet levers and seats all got a coat of antimicrobial spray. Facial rooms got beds stripped and then sprayed along with counters and all commonly touched surfaces. The dispensary area got the same treatment. While we continue with daily cleaning, I now have the peace of mind knowing I have made my spa area safer for clients and my staff. One step more intense would be to have the facility professionally sprayed. This is being done in some medical facilities, fitness centers, hot yoga centers and spas. Because of the attraction of microbes to the antimicrobial, it actually acts as an air filter system so there is minimal buildup of unpleasant odors. As I was working I kept thinking how nice it would have been to have these products when I had kids at home, especially the hand sanitizer since kids are such germ magnets. The hand sanitizer is sprayed on clean hands and continues to work through 10 hand washings. Since the hand sanitizer is not alcohol based, nor contains harsh chemicals it is far kinder and safer to hands than those containing alcohol (which is flammable) or Triclosan which has come under scrutiny and is under review by the FDA.
We don’t think about the risks associated with the use of these harsh chemicals but they surround us. The news report of the little girl in Portland, Oregon who was in the hospital recovering from Cancer brings this home. Staff had used olive oil to remove the girl’s bandages because of its gentleness. Some of the oil evidently got on her shirt so the child used an alcohol based hand sanitizer to try and remove it. (Keep in mind oils are flammable.) In the process static electricity was discharged and her shirt caught on fire. She ended up with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 18% of her body. It was a rare incident and is under intense review by the hospital but it shows the dark side of using these harsh, flammable products – and they don’t work as well.
Maybe the time is now to employ a greener method of microbe control that will make our workspace a safer place to be. Look for products that are EPA registered and consider making your facility a cleaner place that will destroy microbes in a long-lasting, non-toxic, non-corrosive, non-leaching manner. Are they acceptable by your state? They meet the definitions of high and low level disinfectants. They follow the definition of disinfection, a process. They are EPA registered.
I recently had a state inspector come to my facility and these products met their requirements without reservation once I provided him the appropriate documentation on their EPA registry and listing of what they had been proven to destroy. He was delighted for the information I shared and was headed back to share it with the rest of the inspection team.
*If you have questions about the Monofoil products or the technology behind them, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
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