Disinfectant fog is not your friend

By: December 31st, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

While a paramedic is providing care for you in an ambulance, he or she may be getting sick themselves.

A new disinfectant machine used by the Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corporation (MONOC) in New Jersey has caused complaints by some emergency workers, reported NJ.com, Dec. 25.

In May 2009, MONOC started pumping ambulances with the disinfectant machine that released pesticide fog. The dry mist has the ability to sterilize areas that may be unreachable with liquid disinfectant spraying.

The Professional Emergency Medical Services Association of New Jersey (PEMSA) started to get complaints from those who came in contact with the disinfected ambulance, complaining of nausea, migraines, headaches, eye and skin irritation, according to NJ.com. Deborah Ehling, who is the union’s president, said the disinfectant chemical being used is called Zimek QD.

However, Ehling and other industry experts are saying that the chemical itself isn’t causing the symptoms, but the method that’s being used to disinfect is the problem. According to NJ.com, the method being used includes taking the disinfectant solution and altering it into atomized particles that blow into the ambulances as a fog.

It begs the question if the fog is safe enough for exposure to humans. Labor and environmental advocacy groups feel that the way the fog is emitted violates the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), reported NJ.com. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is unable to distinguish if the fog is safe for humans once it turns into the dry mist.

MONOC performed tests on its ambulances to show that chemicals were below acceptable limits. OSHA also did tests on each ambulance. The investigation is ongoing, and MONOC is not using any of the machines until the investigation is complete, reported NJ.com.

Have you had a similar experience where technology caused unintended and possibly harmful consequences in your healthcare setting? Let us know in our comment section below.


By Cindy Winfrey on January 4th, 2011 at 10:24 am

Could you tell me the active ingredient of the pesticide fog? Thanks, Cindy.

By John Berino on January 4th, 2011 at 11:59 am

What is the name and model of the disinfection device? Is it using a peroxide based product? Was it being used according to manufacturers instructions?


The chemical used (Zimek QD) is a quaternary ammonium. It is a disinfectant, not a pesticide. The name of the machine is ZIMEK and it does not use peroxide.

By Jim Gauthier on January 5th, 2011 at 8:15 am

I still think appropriate glove use, and changing gloves when soiled, will keep the inside of these units clean enough to be disinfected the old fashioned way. Do we really need to fog the entire unit when only high touch surfaces are soiled? What is the risk of transmission from low touch surfaces to patients or paramedics?

By Alice Freund on January 5th, 2011 at 1:35 pm

This is overkill and could make people unecessarily sick. These disinfectants are sensitizers. And, yes, I have seen disinfectants (which are EPA registered pesticides)used regularly on FLOORS in hospitals, which routinely do NOT spread infection. They are only needed on floors in the event of a blood spill or highly contageous and high risk situation (patient with MRSA, for example)

By Eileen Senn on January 5th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

For more coverage of this situation go to “Union Fights Toxic Misting of Ambulances” http://www.njwec.org/W@W_NovDec_2010part1.cfm. There are links in that article to Material Safety Data Sheet and Label for Zimek-QD, the main disinfectant. The Zimek Micro-Mist System produces particles as small as 250 nanometers,according to their patent application.

Zimek QD is a pesticide product as defined by the Federal Fungicide, Insecticide and Rodenticide Act(FIFRA). It is an EPA registered product which places the product within the purview of EPA and FIFRA. Besides the quaternary amines, the product is comprised of highly caustic sodium metasilicate (a carcinogen)and tetrasodium ethylenediamine tetraacetate, an extremely caustic sensitizer.

Hey y’all. Jim Gauthier made a comment that may warrant an explanation of atomized or airborne germs can do. Think about the last time a patient hurled in the back of an ambulance, even if they did it into a trash can. If it wasn’t airborne you couldn’t smell it. Yes I can smell really well. Now, where do you think those droplets go. Everywhere, literally! The patient coughs and even if they covered up it can get out. How many times have you seen someone hack one up towards the back of the ambulance? For me more times than I can count, or want to count. Would I use these machines on every ambulance after every call? I doubt it. Scheduling them every month or 2 probably isn’t a bad idea. But I would definitely do it after someone hurles all over the back of my ambulance I would love to use this Zimek machine to make sure it was disinfected. From what I read about the Zimek machine you need to evacuate and replace the air, post fog, with fresh air.

There are proper disinfectant foggers available on the market that are completely safe and economical. Have a look at http://www.biocidal.co.za, a hydrogen peroxide based ‘dry’ fog that is fantastic for all uses. Non-toxic, biodegradable, + all the good stuff (incl. fraganced). It does not substitute wiping up the grime, but makes the environment pathogen-free. Safety Datasheets are available. Please have a look, hopefully some lives can be

OSHA investigation arm NIOSH recently published report that the claims made were not related to either the ZIMEK Machine or substance used. As I recall, no relationship between Zimek use and illness were found. Last report heard they were looking at CO2.
EPA on around 1/30/14 Labeled Vital Oxide for disinfection use with ZIMEK equipment ONLY. I believe VO is the only Class IV (least toxic) disinfectant ever to show disinfection by Fogging/Misting. The only device approved for fogging/misting by the EPA for such use in the Label claim is ZIMEK.


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