Use SAFE, effective & environmentally responsible disinfectants in schools

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We recognize and value the efforts taken by school boards in Windsor-Essex County to safely reopen our schools during the pandemic. Taking measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, including new cleaning and disinfecting protocols, are appropriate. But it is vital to weigh the risks of these chemicals and choose ones with lower health and environmental hazards. Our schools are using a hazardous disinfectant. There are many Health Canada approved disinfectants to use against COVID-19, all are effective, but some are harsher and more toxic than others. Currently, our schools have access to 2 disinfectants: Virex II 256 (a quaternary ammonium compound, or quat, based disinfectant) and Oxivir (a hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant). Virex is primarily used, but this disinfectant contains 2 quats and is MUCH more hazardous! We want schools in Windsor-Essex County to STOP using Virex (and any quats) Here’s why:

  • Quats trigger asthmatic, allergic reactions.
  • Cause NEW onset of asthma and allergies.
  • Quats are potent irritants; can cause cough, runny nose, sore throat (mimics COVID19, colds), rashes, dermatitis
  • Quats are linked to reproductive harm, hormone disruption, decreased fertility, birth defects, disturbs the development of an embryo/fetus (teratogen).
  • Quats inhibit mitochondrial function and estrogen signaling; damages DNA
  • Quat residue accumulates on surfaces, dust, contaminates air. The residue builds-up, is difficult to remove (takes months) and adheres to skin; exposure can be from inhalation, ingestion, skin absorption.
  • Quats are environmental toxins that concentrate in sewage sludge and wastewater effluents; are discharged into natural waters and accumulate in sediments. Quats are toxic to aquatic life.
  • Widespread use of quats is contributing to the global problem of antimicrobial resistance, leading to the development of “superbugs” that cannot be controlled with antibiotics. Increased use of quats during the pandemic makes this issue even more concerning.
  • Virex also contains a neurotoxic chemical (can cause damage to the brain or peripheral nervous system).

Hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectants are Health Canada approved, fast acting and kill a broad spectrum of organisms; yet they are asthma-friendly, emit little to no VOCs, are non-irritating, non-toxic, non-corrosive (are gentle on users and materials), and has a low environmental impact. Our schools should clearly use this type of disinfectant because it is much safer, yet still effective! But they use Virex II 256 broadly instead... why unnecessarily risk harming students, staff, and the environment?

Toxicity to health and the environment can be minimized while efficiently disinfecting, if products are chosen that contain both effective and SAFE active ingredients (from Health Canada's Hard Surface Disinfectant List). Please sign and share this petition so the school boards in Windsor-Essex County will consider making changes. They need to halt Virex (and ANY quat based disinfectant) usage and use safe and effective options instead!


Thanks in advance!


 *Please scroll down if you want to read more information about quats, including sources.*









Quaternary ammonium compounds (a.k.a. quats) pose threats to health, especially with repeated exposure; there are 2 in Virex II 256: n-alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride & didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride. Research shows these chemicals are asthmagens (CAUSES NEW ONSET of ASTHMA). Quats are also a KNOWN ASTHMA TRIGGER to current asthmatics. Therefore, this is in violation of "Ryan's Law/PPM 161" which “...requires every Ontario school board to introduce policies and procedures that... Reduce your child’s contact with asthma triggers such as... cleaning products, scents, …" Furthermore, quats cause occupational asthma; in one study 4 out of 5 people diagnosed with work-related asthma were bystanders. "They were NOT working directly with cleaning or disinfecting chemicals. They were simply nearby and exposed to them." This is alarming not only for employees, but for students; exposure in the building is a threat to the health of ALL! The CDC has recognized asthmatic persons as a high-risk group for COVID-19. Selecting safer disinfectants, particularly those that do not contain respiratory irritants (ex. Quats), is crucial for protecting this high-risk group.

Furthermore, quats “form residues that remain on desks, floors, and other cleaned surfaces. These chemicals can adhere to children’s skin, including their hands, where exposure can occur through ingestion or absorption through the skin. These chemicals may also build up in dust, leading to exposures through inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption…some of these chemicals have been detected in people’s blood and urine, a clear indication of exposure.” Oxivir does not leave a residue behind. So why use Virex? Why not exclusively use Oxivir?

Children are different than adults in their sensitivities to chemicals, as identified by a National Academies report: Children have greater exposures to toxic chemicals for their body weight than adults; their metabolic pathways are immature so they lack the enzymes needed to break down and remove toxic chemicals from the body; children’s early developmental processes are easily disrupted; and children have more time than adults to develop chronic diseases. We expect that our children are in a safe learning environment. But chemical exposures, like those of Virex, threaten the health of our vulnerable, growing children!

The active ingredient in safer disinfectants like Oxivir is hydrogen peroxide, which breaks down into environmentally friendly water and oxygen. Conversely, quats (in Virex) do not readily degrade. They remain in wastewater effluents, are discharged into natural waters, and accumulate in sediments. Since they accumulate, quats are toxic to many aquatic organisms.

Heightened cleaning and disinfecting procedures should NOT negatively impact indoor air quality; and these procedures should NOT increase exposure to hazardous ingredients that are harmful to health. Our schools are NOT practicing the "precautionary principle". Cleaning and disinfecting procedures that protects public health, without threatening the health of staff and students, and the environment, will benefit everyone as we confront this pandemic together. To protect staff and students from POTENTIAL health effects of chemical exposures, schools should err on the side of caution, Virex should NOT be used! There are superior, effective and safe disinfectants that should be used instead of Virex. PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE THIS PETITION!

Thanks SO much!





Greener School Cleaning Supplies = Fresh Air + Healthier Kids: New Research Links School Air Quality to School Cleaning Supplies


San Francisco Department of the Environment: "Safer Products and Practices for Disinfecting and Sanitizing Surfaces:


Healthy Cleaning and Asthma Safer Schools-A How To Guide


Healthy Green Schools & Colleges: Guidelines for COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfection


Classroom Cleaning Tips for Teachers -Washington State Dept. of Health


Green Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting: A Curriculum for Early Care and Education


Children's Vulnerability To Toxic Chemicals: A Challenge And Opportunity To Strengthen Health And Environmental Policy


Association of Occupational & Environmental Clinics: Exposure Code Lookup Tool (type in CAS# of both quats found on Virex II 256 SDS)


Lab Disinfectant Harms Mouse Fertillity


Ambient and Dosed Exposure to Quaternary Ammonium Disinfectants Causes Neural Tube Defects in Rodents


People Against Quats