Experts are raising health concerns over the use of spray guns

A bakery shop employee spraying disinfectant on customers before allowing them to enter the premises in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur. Experts are raising concerns over how spray guns are being used. - AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Cordless, rechargeable spray guns to sanitise surfaces, items and even people are getting popular, but experts are raising concerns over how they are being used.

While some shops are using them to spray sanitisers on objects to prevent Covid-19 infection, many are training this on their visitors, customers and even themselves.

However, Universiti Sains Malaysia virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said while the mist or dry fog that these guns emitted was good for covering large surface areas, it was a bad idea to aim it at people.

“If not used properly, the chemicals in the spray can potentially be hazardous. What is usually sold are virucidal disinfectants, such as 0.05% sodium hypochlorite or liquid with at least 70% ethanol. Even soap or detergent will suffice.

“But some of the sprays have chlorine dioxide, mainly used as bleach. Bleaching agents are great at killing viruses, but we should not be spraying these on people.

“Spraying any sort of chemical on people can cause skin, eye or respiratory irritation or injury. Devices that aerosolised chemicals suspend these in the air and they can stay in the air for a long period, especially if the area is not well ventilated,” she added.

Dr Kumitaa said some of these chemicals might also damage certain surfaces, such as wood or steel.

“While most of these devices come with the recommended chemical, the worry is that it may be swapped out with a cheaper option, especially bleach.

“If not prepared in the right dilution, this can potentially ruin surfaces, clothing and cause skin irritation,” she added.

Dr Kumitaa said a more suitable scenario for the use of these devices would be when there were confirmed Covid-19 cases or in areas that were hard to disinfect by hand.

She warned consumers to only use these spray guns with the approved disinfectants and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, as well as when the rooms were unoccupied and properly ventilated.

“Definitely, use with extreme caution around foodstuff or when there are people,” she said, adding that the usual sanitisers and disinfectants would just work as well.

“Surfaces that are frequently touched such as door handles, elevator buttons, tables and chairs need only to be wiped down with regular disinfectant,” she said.

Penang health committee chairman Dr Norlela Ariffin said since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there had been repeated advisories against spraying people with sanitisers.

“Sanitisers have chemicals and if the mist is breathed in, it can cause respiratory issues,” she cautioned.

Malaysian Shopping Malls Association adviser Richard Chan said while some of their premises would use mist sanitisers on surfaces, these were not trained on visitors. He said it would be worrying if someone sprayed people with chemicals that could be harmful.

Consumers Association of Penang chairman Mohideen Abdul Kader urged the Health Ministry to address the use of sanitising spray guns and similar gadgets and issue public advice.

“Inhalation of the aerosol may be detrimental to the respiratory system or the liquid may come in contact with the eyes and mouth. Is it safe to spray onto a surface meant for food preparation?” he said.

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