Chemical disinfectants: New amendments provide greater protection to consumers

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a dramatic increase in the demand for disinfectants to help mitigate against the spread of this deadly virus.  Now, more than ever, the need for safe disinfecting products that do not pose unnecessary risk to consumers is critical.  

In 2017, the Department of Trade and Industry published an Amendment of the Compulsory Specification for Chemical Disinfectants (VC 8054), which comes into effect in October 2020. This legislation includes compulsory testing and labeling of chemical disinfectants and means that consumers can now be satisfied that chemical disinfectants for sale in South Africa must comply with the minimum safety requirements and must be registered by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS). 

Lee O’Reilly, Quality Systems Internal Auditor at industrial cleaning product manufacturer Industroclean, explains that these regulations apply to chemical disinfectants which are used on hard surfaces in the food, industrial, domestic and health industries to kill microorganisms.  They do not apply to products for use on people or animals.

O’Reilly adds that the new amendments include specifications for several types of micro-oganisms. 

“Whereas the previous regulations focused mostly on those chemical disinfectants which kill bacteria, the new regulations bring us in line with European standards and include specifications for other microorganisms, like viruses, spores and fungi”, she says.

These amendments, which were first contemplated as far back as 2015, require that all chemical disinfectants must comply with the specified minimum safety requirements and must be registered by the NRCS.  This includes strict rules for the labeling of products.

O’Reilly explains that the label or package insert must contain all relevant information, including clearly stating the microorganisms that the product is effective against and clear instructions on how the product should be used.

She adds that all labels must also include warnings; handling and storage information; compatibility with other substances; and, the first aid measures to be taken for different levels of contact, e.g. skin irritation; in eyes; or, if swallowed.

“All products must be tested for effectiveness against the various categories of microorganism.  Testing requirements for chemical disinfectants used in the food, industrial, domestic and institutional areas will be different to the tests for use in the medical area”, she explains.

For consumers, these new regulations mean that they can rest assured that the chemical disinfectant that they purchase has been tested, is within its expiry date and is safe to use – if used as indicated on the label.

O’Reilly cautions however, that there are many non-compliant products on the market which range from coloured water to hazardous substances that can pose a serious threat to both the environment and human lives.

“The new amendments have been put in place to safeguard the environment and protect consumers. Buying cheap, unregistered disinfectants may be tempting for consumers, but these can cause serious health conditions, including lung conditions, skin peeling and allergic reactions”, concludes O’Reilly.

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