When bacteria and viruses become an unwanted guest in an environment, many turn to fumigation as a means of disinfection. Fumigation is great due to its’ ability to reach areas that other methods cannot. However, fumigation has some downsides, and can be a costly and time-consuming process. In these cases where fumigation is not ideal, alternative options to fumigation are necessary. Methods such as using chemicals to sterilize surfaces are common. Less conventional methods like the use of ultraviolet light or steam to kill unwanted pathogens are also a potential option.
Ultraviolet Light and Steam Treatments
While the use of chemicals for the disinfection of surfaces is the most common alternative, it is not the only option available. One popular non-chemical method is ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection. UV light has been trusted for years in the medical industry to disinfect surfaces and equipment, where the focus on cleanliness is paramount. More recently, it has been branching out into other industries as well as a reliable method of disinfection. UV light is powerful and can kill a wide range of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This method of disinfection is most commonly used in enclosed spaces, such as rooms, vehicles, and HVAC systems.
Another non-chemical method used for disinfection is steam treatment. Steam cleaning can be an effective method to disinfect surfaces by using very high-temperature steam to kill bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. Steam disinfection can be used in a wide range of settings, such as hospitals, schools, and food processing facilities.
Risks of Ultraviolet Light and Steam Treatments
Both of these options are fairly commonplace but have their drawbacks like any solution. According to the FDA, UV light may pose potential health and safety risks depending on the wavelength, dose, and duration of radiation exposure. If the unit is not installed properly or used by untrained individuals, this may increase the risks associated with the solution. Other risks include eye injuries, burn-like skin reactions, and airway irritation.
Steam disinfection introduces risks of having treatment areas or surfaces rust due to introducing “wet” into the environment, and even a potential for burns. Some items, such as microsurgical instruments, can get damaged by repeated exposure to steam disinfection.
Surface Disinfection Through the Use of Chemicals
While there are plenty of non-chemical options available for disinfection, the use of chemicals to clean surfaces is still the most popular alternative to fumigation treatments. These methods are generally less expensive and do a great job of disinfecting treated areas; however, this method makes it harder to reach areas that gases, UV light, and steam can reach.
One common chemical used for this purpose is hydrogen peroxide. For hard-nonporous surfaces in a smaller footprint, hydrogen peroxide can be a cost-effective alternative to fumigation and can be used in many settings, such as hospitals and schools..
Quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATs) are another form of chemical that is commonly used for disinfection. They are commonly found in disinfectants and in cleaning products that are used in places such as hospitals, day care centers, restaurants, and homes. Quats, like hydrogen peroxide, must be used with caution, as it can have unwanted side effects, such as causing lung irritation or breathing problems such as asthma.
Chlorine dioxide in a liquid form can also be used for surface disinfection. At high concentrations, chlorine dioxide can be a potent disinfectant with significant risks. At low dosage concentrations, chlorine dioxide can both remain effective as a disinfectant while being gentle and non-hazardous.
While fumigation remains a top choice for disinfection, it is not always the ideal choice for every scenario. In situations where fumigation is not a viable option, due to cost, or a small-scale disinfection-need, alternative methods such as ultraviolet (UV) light and steam treatment work well to reach places that surface cleaning cannot. While the use of chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide, quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATs), and liquid chlorine dioxide are also very popular and great for eliminating pathogens on surfaces. Most importantly to remember though is that all of these methods of disinfection have pros and cons, and each should be researched further before ultimately deciding which is best for certain situations.
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