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Insights for Enhanced Physical and Environmental Decontamination

Mar 17, 2020

I don’t understand why people are hoarding toilet paper! While valuable, this has never been highlighted as an essential item on any of the emergency preparedness plans I’ve ever seen or created. A respiratory illness should not cause people to hoard toilet paper so much that an every-day essential is unavailable from every store within a 10-mile radius!

Although I am not a doctor, epidemiologist, or virologist, I know a few things about this topic after eight years as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) specialist in the Amry. The fine folks at the Army Chemical Corps provide some very “special” training that prepared me and other chemical soldiers to be effective personnel and equipment decontamination specialists. From this perspective, I think bleach and other disinfectants are more effective than all the toilet paper in Wal-Mart when fighting respiratory viruses like COVID-19.

What I learned in the Army is not restricted to military operations. My family uses a straightforward strategy for biological risk management by assuming everything outside our home is contaminated and cleaning all outside items before we bring them into our clean, disinfected house. A decontamination station lives in the garage where we use a bleach solution to disinfect everything. People who started on the dirty side stay there and transport items to the decon station. People on the clean side stay clean and carry disinfected items into the house. The disinfecting team and the people on the dirty side decontaminate themselves before coming inside to ensure everyone and everything remains as clean as possible. (NOTE: It helps to have four children willing to participate in this exercise).

As the virus continues to spread globally, dedicating time to regularly decontaminate and disinfect the physical items you encounter outside as well as the physical objects you bring into your home or office. Many contaminants last for days on a surface without decontamination with COVID-19 lasting up to 9 days! Intentional decontamination will help limit the spread of the virus from contact with contaminated objects.

Adding decontamination practices to the sound recommendations from the CDC about handwashing and self-quarantine when you feel sick will help reduce the number of people affected by the current pandemic and bring it to an end sooner rather than later.

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