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The term “Hygiene Theater” is one that has been in many headlines recently. It has been used to describe the act of cleaning for the sake of showing that cleaning is being performed rather than actually being effective at infection prevention. Many of the articles have argued that much of the disinfection done is a waste of time and money. So is it? Let’s uncover the truth about Hygiene Theater:

Hygiene Theater

Is Disinfection Necessary?

To echo Gene Cole’s (DrPH) recent article – healthcare facilities certainly think so and so does Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. along with Infection Control Technologies. For decades, hospital infection control has focused on respiratory protection, surface cleaning & disinfection, and hand sanitizer as infection prevention. Is wearing a mask while treating a Covid patient respiratory theater?

Why is Disinfection Necessary?

Disinfection is necessary because viruses can live on surfaces from hours to weeks or even longer depending on the virus and the surface. These surfaces can be contaminated through respiratory droplets which fall onto the surface or by touching surfaces. Regular surface cleaning of high traffic areas presents an opportunity to break the chain of transmission. While we should also continue to practice mask wearing for respiratory transmission and hand washing, surface disinfection presents an opportunity to destroy the pathogen before it even reaches the hand – a valuable and worthwhile tool in the middle of a pandemic.

How Does Cleaning and Disinfection Work?

Cleaning entails the removal of dirt, grime and debris on surfaces. Cleaning should be performed before the disinfection process. Disinfecting refers to using chemicals that claim to kill or deactivate between 99.99 (4-Log) – 99.9999% (6-Log) germs on hard, non-porous surfaces or objects on contact and is generally considered more effective than sanitizing. These chemicals kill or deactivate the pathogen.

As biohazard remediation experts, IRS has adopted even more specific guidelines for our technicians to employ when facing a COVID-19 affected cleaning and decontamination that align with the American Bio Recovery Association’s Bio Recovery Site Risk Assessment (BSRA) procedures for assessing project risk. There are multiple levels of treatment depending on assessed risk.

Hygiene Theater Imposters

There has been an explosion in demand for this type of cleaning. This creates an opportunity for less than qualified companies to fill the demand with potentially disastrous consequences. These unqualified companies are performing Hygiene Theater. Those not trained and certified in this kind of work that attempt to perform it could fail to properly address known exposure areas, leaving the risk in place and giving the false impression that professional remediation is not effective against COVID19. In addition to failing to actually mitigate hazardous sites, workers who have not completed the proper training for this work run the risk of becoming infected themselves and spreading the infection to new locations.

The bottom line- when in doubt, call a professional remediation service with the proper training. They’re best suited to assess the risk, if a deep clean is needed and how to proceed with one if the circumstances call for it.

Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is a premier provider of disaster recovery mitigation, environmental remediation, biohazard emergency response and HVAC inspection and cleaning in the New Jersey-Philadelphia-New York City area. IRS is certified by NADCA and have Certified Air Systems Cleaning Technicians and a Certified Ventilation System Inspector on staff. Services include mold removal, water damage restoration, fire damage restoration, flood damage cleanup, smoke damage remediation, and biohazard remediation. Insurance Restoration Specialists is led by Certified Industrial Hygienist Thomas Peter.