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Why do disinfectants clean the virus from surfaces and our hands, but can't be used inside the body?


Candela Iglesias & Joanne Veyret

I understand that injecting or inhaling a disinfectant is a very dangerous thing to do. But why do disinfectants “clean” the virus from surfaces and from our hands, but not from the inside of our bodies?


Some weeks ago there was an uproar in the media about a comment made by the President of the United States suggesting that disinfectant could be used to treat COVID19 - this New York Times article quoted him saying “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that”.

First, let us say, along with WHO and many others that ingesting or inhaling a disinfectant is VERY DANGEROUS and under no circumstances is it recommended.

However, we understand that some people may see a certain logic to the idea. After all, disinfectants are great at killing the virus from surfaces, including our hands. So why can’t they be used inside the body?

Let’s break it down.

What is a disinfectant?

Disinfectants, such as bleach and alcohol, are liquid chemicals that kill germs by destroying the membranes that envelope them or by affecting their metabolism . For example, when you apply bleach on a lavabo or a table, bleach kills the germs without damaging the inert surface.

But your body is made of cells that have similar membranes or compositions to those that envelope some germs, so bleach will work in a similar fashion on your insides, too. When ingested, disinfectants will kill the cells lining your mouth, throat, oesophagus and stomach which is why ingesting them can cause chemical burns. esophageal injury, stomach irritation and prolonged nausea and vomiting.

Disinfectants not only damage the internal lining but are toxic and can cause liver and kidney failure as the body tries to break down the product.

There is no safe way for disinfectant products to enter the body.

But why then can I safely rub my hands with alcohol or bleach without them suffering any damage?

Ah yes, good point.

Mucosas, the tissues lining the cavities of our bodies, such as mouth and throat, are composed of one or a few layers of living cells. Skin, on the other hand, has a very different composition. Skin has three layers, the outer epidermis, the dermis and the innermost subcutaneous layer. In turn, the outermost layer of the epidermis, the “stratum corneum”, consists of dead, flattened skin cells that are held together by skin lipids.

This dead layer of cells is why you are able to rub your hands with alcohol santisiter without enduring damage. When this outer dead cell layer is damaged, for example when you have a cut on your hand, you will feel a stinging sensation when rubbing a disinfectant on your hands, as the product reaches inner layers with living cells.

2020-06-16 07:32:23