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Disinfecting the streets, infecting the environment?

Luís Martins, Portugal 13 years old

Currently, many counties are opting for street disinfection in order to prevent the disease “SARS-CoV-2”. This measure is not mandatory and is causing many discussions and a lot of controversy. According to the Director – General of Health Services (DGS), in relation to disinfection, said that, “There is no scientific evidence that they are effective” and therefore “it is not a measure that is recommended”. 

But does this action have environmental impacts?

Along the main roads of Gualtar circulates a tractor that carries a disinfectant that is sprayed to fight the new global enemy. By telephone contact, the president of the parish council of Gualtar, João Vieira, informs that the method of disinfection was applied “in places where people have more contact, such as pedestrian areas, bus stops, garbage containers and shopping areas”.

Performance of the Gualtar Parish Council in disinfecting the streets.

 This disinfection was carried out from a vehicle with sprayers containing solutions based on sodium hypochlorite, a substance present in bleach, and water, with 2% dilution. Something that is not being taken into consideration is that disinfecting streets with this product may have an environmental impact. Due to this, for example, the flow of rainwater can reach rivers, aquifers, lakes and oceans. 

In places where it is applied, it can be in contact with minerals and may develop dangerous toxins called persistent organic pollutants, due to its difficult degradation. These toxic substances  increases the threat to aquatic species, being able to compromise the life of organisms and their food chains.

Graça Freitas, director of DGS says that the use of this product is not effective, but it is a recommended and validated initiative  according the local authorities, therefore it remains as being the reasonable option of many local authorities. 

João Vieira also informs that in the parish of Gualtar, more than 600 liters of this solution came out of the sprayers, adding that “Reassures people and gives them the certainty that they are being accompanied, and we’re doing everything we can to prevent people from being contaminated.”

In this fight against SARS-CoV-2 it is relevant that the local government uses all the measures they have to protect their populations, but there are environmental costs that come from this effort.

Use of sodium hypochlorite for street disinfection.

DN/Lusa (25/03/2020). DGS diz que desinfeção das ruas não tem efeitos na contenção do contágio. [Consultado em 28/03/2020]. Disponível em: https://www.dn.pt/pais/dgs-diz-que-desinfecao-das-ruas-nao-tem-efeitos-na-contencao-do-contagio-11984476.html

Sociedade Portuense de Drogas, S.A. (19/10/2015). Ficha de dados de segurança (reach).  [Acedido em 28/03/2020]. Disponível em: http://www.grupohidromar.com.br/wp-content/themes/hidromar/download/FISPQ-Hipoclorito-de-sodio.pdf

Solvay Indupa. (11/02/2020). Ficha de Informações de Segurança de Produto Químico – FISPQ. [Acedido em 28/03/2020]. https://www.solvayindupa.com/en/binaries/Technical_Bulletin_FISPQ_Hipoclorito_de_Sodio_PT-232548.pdf

SIC Notícias,  (23/03/2020). Municípios usam água com cloro para desinfetar as ruas. [Acedido em 29/03/2020]. Disponível em https://sicnoticias.pt/especiais/coronavirus/2020-03-23-Municipios-usam-agua-com-cloro-para-desinfetar-as-ruas

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