Ask the Editors
There are numerous barriers, sprays, and wipes available for accomplishing effective environmental surface infection control. What are some of the mistakes that can occur, thereby compromising the effectiveness of the procedures used to accomplish surface asepsis?
Representative problems can include:
- Not cleaning contaminated surfaces before disinfection. The importance of initial cleaning cannot be over-emphasized, as it is included routinely in all published infection control recommendations. Cleaning is the physical removal of debris and which also results in reduction of the number of microorganisms present on the inanimate surface.
- Re-use of barriers sold as single-use items.
- Use of inappropriate products as surface disinfectants. Some individuals previously proposed the use of glutaraldehydes (i.e., high-level disinfectants) on contaminated environmental surfaces. This would constitute a potentially harmful misuse of this immersion type of chemical. These solutions are not manufactured to be used as surface disinfectants and can pose significant health risks for health care personnel who spray them onto surfaces.
- Mistakingly substituting products that have not been tested and approved for use in health care facilities. Household cleaners and sanitizers do not undergo the same rigorous testing, quality control, and EPA approval process before they are approved for use in dental and medical settings. Manufacturers of surface disinfectant sprays and disposable wipes must conduct a number of required independent laboratory, toxicity, and compatibility studies as part of the EPA evaluation process.
- Overspraying of disinfectants. Misuse or overuse of disinfectants can occur in several ways. Operatory surfaces that are repeatedly overexposed to chemicals can discolor or equipment can be damaged. An even more serious problem is that personnel can develop respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing or wheezing when the chemical disinfectant is spray. Ocular irritation, headaches, and even allergies to the chemical can also occur from excessive spraying.