Sanitization Tunnels Physically and Psychologically Harmful

On Monday, The Supreme Court asked Centre as to why the use of tunnels for disinfecting people from the coronavirus has not banned, withstanding the fact that they are not only physically but also psychologically detrimental. 

In the submission of the record of proceedings, it was observed that the usage of disinfection tunnels is a raising concern amidst the global outbreak of coronavirus and it may result in imposing hazards to the community. In regard to which, today, Centre has informed the Supreme Court through its Affidavit that using disinfection tunnel is harmful and it has also, notified all the concerns to abstain using these tunnels. 

Today when the matter was taken up in the Supreme Court, the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the bench headed by Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah that till now no guideline or advisory has been issued by the Health Ministry on use of the fluoroscope for disinfecting humans for the virus.

The bench further questioned the SG that when the use of tunnels is harmful, why have not their use been banned, yet?

Mehta assured that tomorrow Center will issue guidelines for banning the use of Sanitization/Disinfection Tunnel.

The court recorded in its order that “A counter affidavit has been filed on behalf of Union of India. In the Counter Affidavit at page 40 copy of meeting – Annexure ‘G’ dated 09.06.2020 has been brought on the record, where it has been decided that spraying disinfectants is not recommended. Shri Tushar Mehta learned Solicitor General submits that relevant directions and circulars shall be issued to all concerned.”

Now on the request of the Centre, the matter has been posted after two weeks. However, in view of the Statement made by Solicitor General, it is expected that tomorrow Ministry will issue notification banning the use of such disinfectant tunnels.

Interestingly, the PIL was filed by a law student Gursimran Singh Narula pushes the SC to seek response from the Centre on immediately banning the usage, production, advertisement and installation of disinfection tunnels since, they damper the escalation of coronavirus. 

The tunnels are being used in India, Malaysia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Argentina, Mexico, China, Pakistan, Colombia, and Albania and many other countries.

Why disinfectant tunnels may cause adverse effects: 

  1. Typically, there has been no evidence of efficacy found since the efficacy would depend on the goal of the intervention, target surface, chosen disinfectant, residence time etc among the other considerations. The World Health Organisation heads on towards the handling of hand sanitizers more constructively with other interventions known to be effective.
  2. For example, when using hydrogen peroxide vapour to disinfect N95 respirators11, a cycle of over 2 hours is needed. Cleaning textiles requires a hot-water wash cycle (90°C) with regular laundry detergent, or the addition of bleach to the wash cycle, or placing the textile in a disinfectant solution. There is a lack of evidence that a 20-30 second misting in a tunnel will disinfect the target surface.
  3. Considering, the health care setting the effectiveness of the fogging with disinfectants, the room of the patient has not been executed well.
  4. Since, the tunnels are managed over time, the risk of draining a consequential amount of disinfectants into sewage or waterways has not been analysed yet. This may arise a chance of giving rise to disinfectant-resistant organisms, over the period of time.
  5. There is a prospect of respiratory irritation and it is a matter of concern because the virus takes advantage of weakened lungs.

In a recent advisory cautioned against the usage of the disinfectants on people as a part of the measures taken for the mitigation of the coronavirus, The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) explicitly said that “disinfectants are recommended for the cleaning and disinfection only of frequently touched areas or surfaces by those suspected or confirmed to have been infected” by the virus.

The Ministry also clarified that the spraying on any person or group of people was “not recommended under any circumstances” and it was claimed that even if a person is exposed to the virus, spraying on any part of the external body will not assure the damage or killing of the virus that would have entered the latter’s body.

It was further reported by two of the establishments that “A hypo solution with 0.05% weight concentration is suggested for those exposed to a large population such as health workers, municipal employees and police authorities and 0.02% weight concentration for those in normal office spaces like inside office or factory,” hereof, not prescribing usage of it at isolated places like homes.

On March 3, The World Health Organisation issued a technical brief on ‘water, sanitation hygiene and waste management for the COVID-19 virus’ it has been recommended to use sodium hypochlorite at 0.5% (equivalent to 5,000 ppm) for disinfecting surfaces, and 70% ethyl alcohol to disinfect small areas between uses, such as reusable dedicated equipment like thermometers.

Dr J.S Thakur, Chairman, IEC and COVID-19 Prevention Committee at PGIMER, said that “exposure to stronger concentration (10-15%) of hypochlorite can cause serious damage to multiple organs, including burning pain, redness, swelling and blisters, damage to the respiratory tract as well as the oesophagus, serious eye damage, stomach ache, a burning sensation, diarrhoea and vomiting.”

Considering the outbreak and the ever-increasing virus led cases on the daily dosage it is very essential for people to take severe measure as a part of their lifestyle and along with that to avoid dangerous setbacks, it is necessary that the government quickly apprehend and enforce guidelines for banning these disinfectant tunnels.

(Research by Sonia Dahiya-Intern)

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