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Deep cleanings may be toxic, ineffective; atmosphere greater transmitter of coronavirus than surfaces

"If you’re wiping down an area with a Clorox Wipe that was sprayed with ammonium chloride, you can create a gas called chloramine," Diaz said.

NEW ORLEANS — Businesses have been seen displaying signs that read: "We are closed for deep cleaning."

But environmental experts said they're trying to find out if those "deep cleanings' do more harm than good. Here are some answers about the best way to clean, and why there's a bigger concern about how people get infected with the coronavirus. 

Some health experts said they're concerned, saying the chemicals used by crews to disinfect businesses may be toxic to people and ineffective. Dr. Jim Diaz, professor of public health and head of environmental and occupational health at LSU Health Sciences Center, agrees.

"They have a point because many of these chemicals could be highly toxic especially if they’re combined," Dr. Diaz said.

Dr. Diaz said some cleaning chemicals can cause problems with the eyes, lungs, skin and the nervous system. 

"If you’re wiping down an area with a bleach that was sprayed with ammonium chloride, you can create a gas called chloramine," Dr. Diaz said. 

Dr. Diaz said the virus can live on surfaces for hours or days, so they need to be cleaned especially plastic and stainless steel. Dr. Diaz said people can use either five tablespoons of bleach in a gallon of water to disinfect surfaces; 60% ethyl alcohol or 70% rubbing alcohol would also be effective.

"Alcohol is not going to be a problem at any time," Dr. Diaz said. "Alcohol you can spray on your skin. It won’t cause a problem." 

Another issue medical experts and scientists are addressing is how coronavirus spreads through communities, and they're learning that coronavirus spreads more through air — not surfaces, especially indoor air conditioning systems.

"The virus is probably not as communicable on surfaces on inanimate objects as it is in the atmosphere," Dr. Diaz said. "We know that it can remain viable in the atmosphere for up to three hours."

Experts said this is why being outdoors, opening windows, having ventilation filters, wearing a mask, physical distancing, and avoiding close crowds and closed spaces are becoming more and more important in the efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Some people have begun using ultraviolet light as a disinfectant.

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