The sanitization of air systems and work environments: let’s be clear

The health emergency that has hit our country has exponentially increased the importance of the sanitation operations of air treatment systems and work environments, as a measure to be adopted in the Protocols to combat and contain the spread COVID-19 in the workplace. The tax credit, to the extent of 50%, for the expenses of disinfection of the environments and work tools envisaged for the 2020 period by the article 64 of the decree-law “Cura Italia” (DL March 17, 2020, n.18), converted into law. However, there is still little clarity about the meaning of disinfection and the relationship it has with cleaning, disinfection O sterilization.

What are the differences between these interventions and what are the results obtained?

Andrea Casa, leading expert in the field of aeraulic hygiene and President Emeritus of A.I.I.S.A. explores the topic, making it clear:

In Italy, the Regulation implemented by means of the Ministerial Decree 274/97 with articles 1 and 4 of the law of 25 January 1994, n. 82, regulates the activities of cleaning, disinfection, disinfestation, rodent control and sanitation. In the aeraulic field, one of the main technical standards of reference is the Operating Procedure for the assessment and management of risks related to the hygiene of air treatment plants, adopted in 2013 by the State-Regions and Autonomous Provinces Conference, according to which sanitation is intended as an activity aimed at making an object, a surface, the environment and the equipment hygienically healthy in relation to the use that must be made of it. It consists of two distinct but inseparable phases, or employees one from the other: the cleaning and / or cleansing phase and the subsequent disinfection or sterilization phaseand goes on “The first stage of cleaning is an operation indispensable preliminary and consists in the removal of dust, dirt from surfaces and residues, usually carried out with tools such as, for example, brushes, vacuum cleaners, steam jet machines or high pressure water. It can be carried out dry or wet and, in the latter case, we talk about cleaning with the use of water and chemical detergents. The phase follows disinfectiono sterilization, depending on the objectives. The first activity aims to minimize the number of contaminating microorganisms from surfaces and equipment, eliminating all pathogens, but not their spores. It is carried out using chemical (chemical disinfection) or physical means, such as dry or humid heat (thermal disinfection) and in specific cases also ultraviolet rays. Otherwise, the sterilization is intended as a chemical or physical process aimed at eliminating all living microbial forms, both vegetative and sporal. The safe sterility level (SAL) corresponds to the theoretical probability ≤1 in 1 million (SAL ≤ 10-6) of detecting a surviving microorganism within a sterilization batch. In other words, it is possible to say that a surface or a material is defined sterile when the chances of finding a microorganism are less than one in a million.“.

What do you recommend to those who must evaluate a sanitation service?

“As anticipated, it is therefore evident that cleaning and cleansing operations alone do not constitute a sanitization activity, as well as disinfection or sterilization operations, in the absence of preliminary cleaning or cleansing operations. This is an extremely important point, given the increasing spread of incorrect hygienic practices which, under the label of “sanitation”, only involve the disinfection phase, through the aerosolization of chemicals in the air and on the surfaces of installations. An example of this are the apparatuses, erroneously called “Active Sanitation” which, by delivering molecules with high oxidizing capacities (hydrogen peroxide, ozone, hydroxyls, etc.) into the air flow of plants or environments to carry out a disinfection, bypassing the preliminary cleaning phase. These systems can be a valid tool, in order to ensure a correct hygienic state of the systems, only if their action is deployed within a clean system, free of dust, particulates and other chemical contaminants.” And concludes“My recommendation to entrust, given the importance and sensitivity of the subject, to professional operators withadequate training is a consolidated experience, is in this period as timely and desirable as ever “.

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