KUALA LUMPUR: The time is now ripe for the effects and efficacy of public disinfection exercises to be put under the microscope.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) president Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason said the debate on the use of disinfection agents — sodium hypochlorite and ethanol — in the sanitising solution called for a study to be carried out.
“It has to be done for the simple reason to verify the use of the disinfectants to kill the virus and move forward.
“However, the study has to be done by the authorities and those who are competent. The job can’t go to any old contractor,” he said, drawing on the New Straits Times’ report on experts urging the Health Ministry and agencies like the Environment Department to conduct the study.
Marimuthu also highlighted the need for the authorities to be transparent on the procurement of the chemicals.
The Housing and Local Government Ministry told the New Sunday Times that RM30 million had been set aside under the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package for the purpose.
It, however, still has a two-months’ supply of a 100,000 litre stockpile donated by Malay-Sino Chemical Industries Sdn Bhd.
MAKE DETAILS PUBLIC
Consumer Association of Penang officer R. Uma said the authorities had to make details of the procurement clear by stating what company was getting contracts and so on.
“We need to know if the money has been spent and at what stage the procurement is at now.
“If possible, the government should hold back on releasing the RM30 million and only conduct public sanitisation as and when necessary for targeted exercises.
“At the same time, the authorities should conduct studies on the effects and efficacy of the disinfectants,” she said, adding that this would prevent wastage as well as misuse of the funds.
She, however, agreed that the sanitisation exercises gave people the assurance to go back to their daily lives, echoing an analysis from The Conversation.
The report had concluded that while urban disinfection might increase public confidence, it was likely to be ineffective in protecting the public from infection.
Uma said: “We also got our offices sanitised as required by the authorities’ standard operating procedure. It needs to be done periodically and costs quite a lot.
“If it is not useful. It has to be made clear to the people through the data from the studies.”
Uma said the emphasis should be on good housekeeping, possibly introducing tax breaks for homeowners or commercial operators who keep their shared and public spaces extremely clean.
“The same goes for the authorities as there is no use disinfecting areas when drains are dirty.”
LOOK INTO ALTERNATIVES
Malaysian Muslim Consumer Association chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan agreed with the other consumer advocates, saying that alternatives to the substances used in sanitisation exercises needed to be explored in the research.
He said methods of administering the substances besides spraying and the use of vapour also had to be considered.
Datuk Salleh Buang, a former federal counsel at the Attorney-General’s Chambers, said the best way ahead was to conduct a proper study comprising a wide range of experts on health and the environment.
Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla said while this was the best option, the government had to state its stand, explain it and share the direction it was taking.
“If the government chooses to continue with disinfection exercises, that has to be stated and explained publicly.”
THINK OF THE WILDLIFE
In May, the World Health Organisation said spraying disinfectant on streets, as practised in some countries, did not eliminate Covid-19 and may even pose health risks.
Last month, a paper published in the Environmental Research journal said the indiscriminate use of such substances in urban settings posed a significant danger to wildlife.
China was the first country to start sanitising its cities in January. As soon as it did, reports of poisoned animals surfaced.
In February, an investigation by the Forestry Bureau in Chongqing, a sprawling city in southwestern China, found that at least 135 animals across 17 species, including wild boar, Siberian weasels and blackbirds, had died after exposure to disinfectants, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Hebei Normal University ecology professor Dongming Li said ingredients in the disinfectants, mostly sodium hypochlorite, chlorine and bleach, were “acutely toxic to both terrestrial and aquatic animals”.
Article by: New Straits Times
CALL FOR STUDY OF PUBLIC SANITATION