Disinfectant Resistance

June 2021

Susceptibility of COVID and other viruses to disinfectant, containing at least 70 percent ethanol, has made them in greater demand and more heavily used.

We rely on disinfectant to protect against COVID and other bacteria.  Without this protection more illness and deaths are likely.  Growing resistance of bacteria to disinfectant is troubling as is a rise in poisoning from disinfectant and sanitizer use.

Resistance to antibiotics has become a life-threatening challenge as multi-drug resistant infections are becoming more difficult to treat.  There appears to be a similar growing resistance to disinfectant with some bacteria becoming more resistant to those commercially available.  Some predict that, by 2050, antimicrobial resistance could account for as many deaths as cancer does today.

Greater care in the use of disinfectant is necessary in hospitals, the food and agricultural industry, and in our homes.  Health Canada reported a 58 percent increase in accidental poisonings from exposure to bleach, hand sanitizer and disinfectant since the start of the pandemic.  Increased cleaning without proper safety training has increased exposure to cleaning solutions and fumes.  More than 90 percent of poisonings occur at home.

Overprescribing antibiotics is an important contributor to today’s multi-drug resistant bacteria.  Overuse of disinfectant is expected to create a similar problem by making it easier for bacteria to develop resistance to them.

Proper use of disinfectant is the best protection against future bacteria resistance to them.  Disinfectant should only be used at the recommended level without dilution.

Over-disinfecting is unnecessary.  This is not healthy for the environment, unhealthy for people and ineffective.

Effective cleaning and handwashing remain the most effective ways to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.  Disinfectant, including hand sanitizer, is the only alternative to control bacterial growth including COVID.  There is currently no alternative if bacteria become resistant to them.  To prevent, or delay, this from happening excessive use of disinfectant should be avoided.