Regardless of where your office is located or what type of practice you work in, a common factor is Infection Control. Everyone needs a surface disinfectant to keep the workplace clean and safe. Not all surface disinfectants are created equally. Understanding the differences will ensure you make an informed decision. With so many products flooding the market, a little insight will quickly allow you to make the right selection.
Is my disinfectant best for my practice? What is the toxicity level? Can I really use this product with my bare hands? How do I know I made the best decision? These are common questions I hear on a daily basis as a sales representative. Additional important attributes for consideration include: Does my disinfectant clean and disinfect? Does it have a Drug Identification Number (DIN)? Can it be used on both hard and soft surfaces? What does it protect me from? The answers are easily found in one simple place – the product label. Let’s take a closer look.
How are drugs reviewed in Canada? Drugs are authorized for sale in Canada once they have successfully gone through the drug review process. This process is the means by which a drug application is reviewed by scientists in the Health Products and Food Branch (HPFB) of Health Canada, and on occasion, outside experts, to assess the safety, efficacy and quality of a drug. Throughout the process, the safety and well-being of Canadians is the paramount concern. 1
Once a drug has been authorized, Health Canada issues a Drug Identification Number (DIN), a computer-generated eight digit number which uniquely identifies the following product characteristics: manufacturer; product name; active ingredient(s); strength(s) of active ingredient(s); pharmaceutical form; route of administration. A DIN lets the user know that the product has undergone and passed a review of its formulation, labeling and instructions for use. 2
The best advice I can give is, “Read the label”. We are lucky in Canada that claims made on product labels must be true. If the product is not labeled with Fungicidal or Tuberculocidal for example, it did not meet the testing criteria and could not be included on the product label.
Ask yourself what disinfecting claims are important to you, then check the label to see if it has what you need. When discussing broad spectrum, there are four key categories: Bactericidal, Virucidal, Fungicidal and Tuberculocidal. Ideally the wipe you are using should have all four claims. Health Canada offers the following definition regarding the Virucidal claim: Broad-spectrum virucide: A substance, or mixture of substances, capable of destroying or irreversibly inactivating at a minimum one representative hard to kill non-enveloped virus, and which is expected to inactivate other enveloped and non-enveloped viruses present on environmental surfaces and inanimate objects. 3
Be aware of “Virucidal*” – a Virucidal claim with an asterisk – this is not a broad spectrum virucide. In order to be a broad spectrum virucide, the product must be tested against difficult to kill non-enveloped viruses. Difficult to kill non-enveloped viruses include rhinovirus (the common cold) and Norwalk virus. If the product has limited Virucidal efficacy, you have to read the small print to determine what viruses are killed. Product labels will indicate which virus was used to obtain the Virucidal claim.
What about green products and toxicity levels? Remember the purpose of a disinfectant – it is designed to kill potentially dangerous pathogens. Do not believe sales tactics that tell you that it is acceptable to use products with your bare hands. Always wear your personal protective equipment regardless of what you may have been told. It is your health and safety, so take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. Full toxicity evaluations can be found on the product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS). Look for SDS documents that are complete, with no missing information. Remember to check the products’ expiry date – yes, they do have a shelf life. Most products state that they are non-toxic when used according to label directions. That being said, you wouldn’t want to drink or bathe in them – even with a non toxic claim.
At work and as at home, with the rush of each day, we constantly have to make decisions that affect us, and those around us. The quickest, cheapest or easiest solution is not always the best one. When it comes to surface disinfection, always compare label to label, not what you have heard or seen in marketing and advertisements. Safe and accurate information comes from reading your product labels. Labels list: Product name, intended use (don’t use a product for hard surfaces on your soft surfaces, like your dental chairs), disinfection level, contact time, dilution rate (if applicable), active ingredients, compatibility, DIN, safety, storage and expiration.
There are so many surface disinfection choices on the market and so little time to sort through them all. Be sure to purchase your products through a reliable and trustworthy company – steer clear of unknown companies who sell through your fax machine. Choose products that come from companies with knowledge and experience.
Your job of choosing the best one is difficult and comes with a great deal of responsibility. Start simple with a wish list and the label. With so many other things to worry about today, at least you can rest assured your product of choice is doing what it says it does. Leave your worries behind and know that when you leave your operatory after disinfection, the dangerous pathogens are gone. Read the labels, wear your PPE and feel good that you made the right decision.
1. Health Canada, Drug and Health Products, How Drugs are Reviewed in Canada. Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodpharma/activit/fs-fi/reviewfs_examenfd-eng.php. Accessed
2. Health Canada, Drug and Health Products, Drug Identification Number. Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodpharma/activit/fs-fi/dinfs_fd-eng.php. Accessed January 2017.
3. Health Canada, Drug and Health Products, Disinfectant Drugs. Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodpharma/applic-demande/guide-ld/disinfect-desinfect/disin_desin-eng.php. Accessed January 2017.
About the Author
Barbara Albom is a District Sales Manager at Germiphene. She is a Registered Dental Hygienist in Toronto. She is currently a sales representative at Germiphene Corporation and presenter of educational seminars on Infection Control and Oral Health products. She has been working in the dental industry for twenty one years. She currently researches all types of Infection Control and Oral Health products that are on the market today.