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Cleaning Correctional Facilities Without Chemicals
By Matt Montag
Published: 09/21/2015

Cleaning floor a

Although there have been improvements in the health of many correctional facilities around the world, just by their nature, such facilities are ideal environments for the transmission of all types of contagious disease. Most correctional facilities are crowded – in many cases, housing far more inmates than they were designed to hold – plus they can be restricted by unsanitary conditions or lack of funds for hygiene supplies for inmates.

Other conditions that make correctional locations vulnerable to disease and the spread of infections is that many inmates are transient, moved from one location to another. This means if there is infection or disease in facility number one, an infected inmate transferred to facility number two may contaminate the new facility.

Additionally, some inmates who are sick fail to report their illness – which also means they take few if any precautions to help stop its spread. Further, overwhelmed nurses and doctors serving correctional facilities may not recognize or may misdiagnose an infection, increasing the likelihood that it will spread throughout the facility.

So what can correctional facility administrators do about this situation? Fortunately, there are many steps, and it all begins with inmates and staff. Although these actions may appear to be simple, many can have dramatic results when it comes to stopping the spread of infection in prisons:
  • Regularly remind staff and inmates to wash hands frequently.
  • Make sure plenty of soap is available throughout the facility. (In most cases, antibacterial soap is not needed; just wash hands properly for 20 seconds with warm water.)
  • Install antibacterial “wipe stations” throughout the facility.
  • Encourage staff and inmates to be vaccinated for such things as the flu every year.
  • Require appropriate staff members to wear protective gear at all times. Provide gloves and in some cases goggles where staff members sign in each day.
  • Require staff to wear personal respiratory protection when entering a room in which a person is known to be or suspected of being sick.
  • Keep tabs on illness in the facility, and take action quickly and as necessary.
Regarding this final item, as soon as an inmate reports feeling ill or appears to be ill, that information should be logged and proper actions taken to limit the inmate’s access to common areas of the facility as well as to other inmates and staff. In addition, the status of the illness or potential illness should be watched by an infection control committee created within the prison. Should similar outbreaks be noted, it means serious infection control measures may be needed to help minimize the spread of the disease.

Understanding Cross-Contamination

The previously mentioned precautions are valuable because they are simple to incorporate and there is little if any cost attached to them. However, ultimately one of the best ways to prevent disease outbreak in correctional facilities is to stop cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination typically begins when a person touches a surface that is contaminated with germs and bacteria. Then the person touches his or her face—nose, eyes, or mouth—and infects him- or herself. And then he or she touches another surface, one that is touched by other inmates. Once this happens, the germ-causing pathogens can cause anyone else who touches those contaminated surfaces to be sick.

Administrators should know that many pathogens can exist on a surface for 72 hours before they die. Some studies have shown that even when pathogens are found on door handles touched by several people every day, enough pathogens remain on the handles to potentially spread infection for up to three days.*

The Role of Cleaning

When it comes to stopping or at least minimizing the spread of infection, in addition to proper hygiene, proper and effective cleaning is necessary. This calls for the use of disinfectants and sanitizers registered with the Environmental Protection Industry.** Disinfecting and sanitizing is often a two-step process. First the area must be cleaned to remove soils from the surface, and then the disinfectant or sanitizer should be applied.

While disinfectants and sanitizers should always be used, especially if there is a disease outbreak in a correctional facility, they can be tough on the indoor environment, the user, and staff and inmates. Some correctional facilities are looking into or adopting an option that does not affect the environment: chemical-free cleaning systems.

Some of these, such as aqueous ozone systems, are referred to as “greener than green” because they have essentially no impact on the environment or the user. Ozone is a naturally occurring gas in the atmosphere. New technology mechanically infuses it into water. The result is an effective cleaning agent.

When used to clean walls, floors, restroom fixtures, and other surfaces, aqueous ozone can be compared to chlorine bleach. Essentially, it destroys cell walls of microorganisms the same way chlorine bleach does, eradicating them from the surface.

While aqueous ozone has been used for years to treat water, it is just in the past few years that these systems can be attached to sinks in janitorial closets, allowing the aqueous ozone solution to be poured into sprayers used for cleaning. For floors and large surface areas, portable “caddies” produce and transport the solution, allowing it to be used when and where needed.

Points Made

Our goal here is to bring three issues to the attention of correctional facility administrators. First, correctional facilities provide just the right conditions for pathogens that can cause illness to flourish. Second, there are some simple and inexpensive steps administrators can take to prevent cross-contamination. Finally, effective cleaning and cleaning technologies are now available that have no impact on the environment and are designed to keep all facilities, including correctional facilities, clean, healthy, and free of disease.

*Studies by Dr. Charles Gerba, microbiologist with the University of Arizona.
**Disinfectants are designed to kill all pathogens listed on the product’s label if used properly; sanitizers kill almost all pathogens when used properly.

Matt Montag is the national sales manager of CleanCore™, manufacturer of aqueous ozone cleaning systems. He can be reached at mmontag@cleancore.com.


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