Disinfecting School Buses: Are There Long Term Effects?

school bus safety, School bus industry, covid-19, school bus cleaning, Disinfecting school buses

shutterstock_1710852178When the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak hit, properly disinfecting school buses became a top priority for school districts. At a minimum, districts stepped up the use of disinfecting chemicals and products like hand sanitizer. Many even upgraded their buses, installing systems such as intense UV light systems or disinfectant sprayers which would facilitate easier cleaning.

Now, there is some growing concern about whether there will be any long-term effects from sanitizing school buses. This is a broad topic, and research is often scarce, but we wanted to summarize what's out there.

Are There Unexpected Long-Term Effects From Disinfecting School Buses?

All products commonly recommended for use in sterilizing school buses have been approved by the FDA for use in human environments. However, the problem is that the trial studies leading to this approval tended to rely on the once-a-month use of the products.

Is there any harmful buildup or residue from using high-grade sterilization products on a daily basis? Unfortunately, right now the answer is we don't know. There simply hadn't been any need for such research previously. 

At the least, so far there has been no indication of any problems. Still, districts should probably keep an eye out for any strange incidents, such as higher-than-usual cases of allergic reactions among bus riders or drivers.

Another issue is whether sterilization products will have any adverse effects on the bus or its components. Here, there are some guidelines. Some types of disinfectants absolutely should not be used on certain bus components, due to potential damage.

A school district should not use the following combinations of products and surfaces:

  • Pouring pure bleach on vinyl, plastics, or other fiber-based surfaces. This includes bus seats as well as seat belts. At the least, they will be discolored, and the bleach could potentially eat into them.
  • Fabrics should never be exposed to bleach at all, even when diluted. 
  • Putting pure hydrogen peroxide on vinyl, plastics, or fibers. Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizer and, like bleach, can break down these materials.
  • Ammonia products should never be put on plastics, vinyl, or touchscreen devices. It will melt most plastics.

Beyond that, there is a lack of research into the long-term effects of systems such as foggers or UV light systems on bus components. Adverse reactions are unlikely but still remain possible. Be sure to frequently check your buses for any signs of undue wear and tear!

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What do you think? Have you seen any evidence of adverse reactions to cleaning products within buses or bus riders? Or do you think that the issue is overblown, and not worth too much concern? Share your thoughts in the comments!