Submitted by Nimrat Dhillon and Mridutpal Bhattacharya, Research Members.
In developing countries such as India & Africa where the population density comprises more of middle classes & lower middle classes & lower classes rather than the higher classes – most of who have never been to school or been privileged enough to have bestowed upon them the gift of education or knowledge, ergo awareness & critical thinking, don’t even at times know the difference between anti-septic & disinfectant. There exist people who would rather pour phenyl or other household disinfectants on a wound rather than apply antiseptics be it owing to the fact that they do not know about antiseptics or due to the fact that the cost of the antiseptic is just out of their reach, or owing to the basic fact of the person residing in an intrinsic rural area & where the person has no access to medicine. It is not a strange occurrence that stray dogs & cats that get into fights & get wounded following which they develop maggot infestations on the wound are sprayed with disinfectants rather than antiseptics & consequentially the animal breathes its last.
The coronavirus disease (or COVID-19) is collectively omnipresent in everyone’s minds at the moment. Unfortunately, it brings with it an apt amount of panic and alarm as people are struggling to find a cure for it. We hear about the so-called “cures” almost every day now, but all in vain. One such solution opted amongst the masses was the spraying of disinfectants on the bodies of people, which has appropriately backfired due to the lack of science backing it. In parts of Africa and India, people have fallen prey to this misconception as well because the population density comprises more of people who have never been privileged enough to have the gift of education or knowledge bestowed upon them, ergo, a lack of awareness and critical thinking. These activities have raised concerns amongst the respective governments, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Africa Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (Africa CDC) & the Infection Control African Network (ICAN) have raised concerns on the practice of using chemical disinfection sprays or tunnels with chemical disinfectants or ultraviolet rays (UV-C). This practice has been noticed in several pieces of media information; this has also been included in local disinfection policies & protocols for healthcare facilities & local governments. Tunnels, booths & such other infrastructures have been utilized to spray humans with disinfectants such as chemicals or UV-C. These practices are extremely objectionable & are not recommended. This statement is based on a review of the most recent evidence and Africa CDC and ICAN expert assessment (AFRICA CDC).
There are certain serious objections to the usages of these disinfectants such as:
UV-C & chemical disinfectants are designed for use on hard surfaces & not human facial organs such as the eyes, ears, nose, etc. or any other organ or anywhere on the human body. It might cause cancer or problems with the respiratory tract (AFRICA CDC).
Chemical disinfectants are tested on & supposed to be used only on surfaces & their effectiveness on surfaces even is dependent upon the adhering to specific cleaning protocols. No evidence suggesting the effectiveness of disinfectants in inhibiting the spreading or transmission of infectious illnesses, viruses, bacteria such as the Sars-Cov2 or Covid-19 have come to light. The spraying of disinfectants on humans not only fails to treat the virus but higher pressure spraying to the body causes the virus to digress further, & infect more than it originally would. I.e. it does not inhibit the transmission or effectiveness of the virus but increases it. These sprayings are not advocated because they might fail to work in certain organic environments such as grass, or soil, they also don’t work on pavements, or concrete, & further cause pollution of the environment (AFRICA CDC).
The resources allocated to spraying humans with disinfectants may lead to other higher priority intervention elements to be assigned a lower priority. Priority interventions include physical distancing, hand washing, avoidance of face touching, cough hygiene and appropriate use of face masks. The staff conducting human spraying with disinfectants requires extensive PPE to reduce the risk of harm from contact with chemicals, this puts additional strain on the PPE supply chain. Studies show that even while wearing PPE, the sprayers are at risk of damage to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract (AFRICA CDC).
In light of the present covid-19 pandemic scenario, & the situation in India, the Union Health Minister on April 18th, Saturday commented remarked that the spraying of disinfectants on humans is psychologically & physiologically harmful. The ministry remarked –
"The strategy seems to have gained of lot of media attention and is also being reportedly used at local levels in certain districts/local bodies,"
Chemical disinfectants are recommended for cleaning and disinfection only of inanimate areas frequently touched by confirmed patients of covid-19. Precautionary measures are to be adopted while using disinfectants for cleaning - like wearing gloves during disinfection. (PTI, 2020)
The fatal character of disinfectants can be ascertained by one simple case filed u/s 304 I.P.C & other provisions by relatives of one Kunwarpal(deceased) against one Indrapal & four others, in UP. The victim was a worker who following a minor dispute was admitted in Bilaspur hospital on April 14th & died on 17th April had been forced to consume a disinfectant in the form of a sanitizer by the accused. The cause of death was declared to be the consuming of disinfectants. (Press Trust of India, 2020)
The uproar was caused on social media when migrant workers travelling to Uttar Pradesh amidst the lockdown were doused with a disinfectant which is used to sanitize buses and videos of the same started doing the rounds online.
WHO has also issued a few “myth-busting” guidelines and one of them clearly states that “spraying and introducing bleach or another disinfectant into your body WILL NOT protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous” (WHO)
The spraying of disinfectants on humans can be seen as nought but the only tomfoolery on the part of the persons spraying them. Whosoever authorizes such actions as these- which are detrimental to the value of human life & dignity deserve to be punished. As these actions take away our right to life & personal liberty guaranteed by Art. 21 of the Indian Constitution, more specifically- these actions take away our right to health & the right to live with dignity. Any & all organizations authorizing such actions without the prior consent of the person being sprayed with disinfectants is indulging in an unconstitutional affair & is disrespecting & disrupting the human rights of the individual & deserves to be punished.
1. AFRICA CDC. POSITION STATEMENT: The use of disinfection tunnels or disinfectant spraying of humans. Addis Ebaba : AFRICA CDC.
2. Press trust of India. 2020. UP: Kin allege man died after forced to consume disinfectant, police register case. Business Standard. [Online] April 19, 2020. [Cited: June 17, 2020.] https://wap.business-standard.com/article-amp/pti-stories/up-kin-allege-man-died-after-forced-to-consume-disinfectant-police-register-case-120041900898_1.html.
3. PTI. 2020. Spraying of disinfectant on people 'physically and psychologically harmful': Health ministry. Economic Times. [Online] April 18, 2020. [Cited: June 17, 2020.] https://m.economictimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/spraying-of-disinfectant-on-people-physically-and-psychologically-harmful-health-ministry/amp_articleshow/75226204.cms.
4. WHO. myth-busters. WHO. [Online] https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters .