Welcome to Professional and Technical Services (PTS) – experts in chemical disinfection for infection prevention. Our goal is to educate and provide you the latest resources related to cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces, medical devices and hands. As specialists in disinfectant chemistries, microbiology, environmental cleaning and disinfection, facility assessments and policy and procedure creation we are dedicated to helping any person or facility who uses chemical disinfectants.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Do you have improvement blindness?

I came across an article at cmmonline.com written by Tobi Colbert “Combating “Improvement Blindness”: Becoming blind to necessary improvements can hurt BSCs”.  While the article focused on areas that are often overlooked such as fraying carpets, dirt building up in corners or dirty janitor closets within the building service contractors (BSCs) it made me pause.  It made me rethink my approach, or the approach I could take from an education perspective when talking to people about the use of cleaners and disinfectants.

The author noted that people often get “comfortable” in their choices of product.  We know that changing products, changing cleaning procedures, etc. is not easy.  It’s time consuming.  Some staff need more hand holding than others and some staff down right rebel!  It can be easier to stay with a product we’ve been using for a long time because we feel we get good pricing, we know and like the sales rep and our staff do not complain.  The “blindness” in this case is not being willing to look at new products and technologies that may improve the way of cleaning or decrease the time it takes to get the work done.  That of course is the manager’s blindness. 

Staff can also be blind.  I had drinks with a friend this week and we were chatting about a situation she had with a facility.  The manager had not been blind.  The manager investigated and brought a new product in because of its attributes.  The staff on the other hand…..  Well there was a full blown rebellion in the works.  My friend came in to talk with staff again and hear out their concerns.  One very vocal person went on and on and on.  Eventually the employee stopped, looked at my friend and said “you’re not going to help us get rid of this product are you”.  My friend replied “no, the facility has chosen this product because of the attributes....”  But before she could go any further the staff member turned on her heel and left.  The employee was blind to considering a new product and blind to the reasons why the new product was chosen even when one of the attributes made the product safer to handle!
Conversely, there can be other forms of “blindness” when it comes to choosing a disinfectant.  This one is, in my mind, far more dangerous.  Unlike the above situation where the manager does not want to investigate or consider alternative products, the opposite situation is one where a manager is willing to try new products – particularly if they are trying to address a problem such as reoccurring outbreaks.  In this case the need or want to address a singular concern often creates tunnel vision where the focus becomes looking for a product effective against “bug X” without taking into consideration other key considerations in choosing a disinfectant such as safety, compatibility, environmental profile, etc.  The problem with this method of product selection is that you will end up with unintended consequences such as ruined surfaces or staff complaints.

Bugging Off!


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Got those Back to School Blues?

For many, the school year starts in August.  In my neck of the woods, school starts the day after Labour Day.  For parents it’s generally a time of mixed emotions. Euphoria, as the kids are back to a routine, out of our hair for the day and you’re not stuck listening to the ever popular “I’m bored, what can I do”.  It’s also a time of stress, with back to school shopping, looking for the perfect first day of school outfit or the elusive flat rim Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hat.  Back to school also signifies sniffles, coughs, colds and if you’re particularly lucky, vomit and diarrhea.

All is not lost though!  With the proper preparation and education (commonly referred to as “nagging” from our children) we can instill the 6 habits of healthy people:
  1. Get lots of sleep
  2. Keep hydrated
  3. Eat healthy (aka lots of fruits and vegetables)
  4. Exercise regularly
  5. Cover your mouth or nose when you sneeze or cough
  6. Wash your hands

I think I need to rethink the amount of sleep I get and the frequency of exercise………

The ability of a child to fight off infections is dependent on age. The younger they are, the weaker the immune system; meaning they are more prone to picking up bugs and bringing them home. There has been quite a bit of research done on school related illnesses, student absenteeism and what germs lurk on school surfaces. In fact, back in 2013 I did a “back to school” blog on just that – “School Absenteeism Due to Illness – Fact or Fiction?”.  Like me, if you have a younger child who is prone to bringing home germs, this year we have created an entire Back 2 School education campaign filled with fact sheets on the most common school bugs, protocols to help you clean and disinfect, what to consider when choosing disinfectants that are used around children and a whole host of other helpful tools!  I hope you’ll check it out!

Now to get back to making tomorrow’s school lunch and nagging my son to brush his teeth and get to bed!

Bugging Off!


Friday, September 9, 2016

Is your pet making you sick?

I only have to scroll through a few posts on Facebook or Instagram to see a friend or relative posting a picture…albeit a cute picture…of someone snuggling, kissing, or cuddling an animal.  Coming from a farming background, I will warn you, I have many like-minded friends and relatives who believe that cows, horses, sheep, goats, pigs and even chickens are meant to be snuggled.  Horses I can completely understand. Chickens and stinky billy goats, I’m not too sure about!

From a Public Health perspective, antibiotic resistant organisms (AROs) and the concern with treatment options and adverse patient outcomes has become a main stay in the media.  The same has been true in the animal health world with concerns of antibiotic resistance in farm animals.  This joint focus or movement over the concern of the impact antibiotic resistance in humans and farm animals has been aptly named One Health.  Perhaps we need to change our focus from farm animals to the animals we call pets that share our houses, our beds and sometimes the occasional lick of our ice cream cones?

In recent years there have been several studies looking at this topic.  The primary question being asked is if humans and pets can share drug-resistant bacteria?  In 2014, a study out of the United Kingdom showed that humans and companion animals "readily exchange and share" isolates from the same strain after analyzing different strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in cats and dogs.  Just last week, researchers in China, who found that a pet shop worker, along with four dogs and two cats, were infected with a strain of Escherichia coli bacteria carrying the MCR-1 gene.  As highlighted in this study, since E. coli carrying the MCR-1 gene appears to be easily spread and as it’s not yet curable, we now have more avenues for transmission.

Based on past studies, researchers believed that people may be infected by the food they eat — specifically animal products.  Now we need to consider what infections we may get as a result of the pets we keep!  I do caution that before we kick our pets to the curb, the truth is that although there is a possibility of disease transmission, the risk is low.  Low enough in fact that the risk is often considered to be outweighed by the benefits of pet ownership.  According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), somewhere between 37% and 47% of all US households own a pet.  For some pet owners, the relationship is a close one and such intimate relationships with our pets does increase the chance that some of these resistant bacteria can move back and forth between them and us.
However, all is not lost. Good hygiene practices such as not letting your pet lick your face (or you not kissing your pet’s face) and washing your hands after petting, snuggling, cuddling or picking up their poop (especially before you eat) are good precautions to take.  Another way to minimize yours and your pet’s risk for sharing bugs is by taking your pet to the vet for regular check-ups and keeping vaccinations current.  After all, a healthy pet is much less likely to carry diseases that can infect you!
Bugging Off!


Friday, September 2, 2016

Vacation Alert!

I cannot fathom that summer is wrapping up.  This week I’ve enjoyed a bit of rest and relaxation which has included visiting with family, lots of fun on the water, eating and reading.  With beautiful views of the Trent River and gorgeous sunsets it’s a wonder that I was able to steal myself away long enough to check emails and keep up with what’s going on at work.  That’s actually when I saw the email “Where’s your blog?” 

As with each summer I often share a few good summer reads.  I realize that the summer is wrapping up, but as the cold sets in reading indoors wrapped under a cozy blanket is almost as good as sitting outside while basking in the sun.  I will wholeheartedly admit, I enjoy a good romance book.   It’s a wonderful brainless way to completely relax and extricate yourself for an hour or two at a time from life.   But I also enjoy reading a good popular science book.    Like anyone, I love finding out the story behind discoveries that have now become familiar to us and learning about other science disciplines (even if I have no aptitude for them).   Most importantly, it is what I can take from these reads to increase my ability to find interesting and easy ways to communicate science to non-scientists. 

I’m more apt to read books that tie science to life where research is discussed but explained in a story of how the research can impact and even improve my life.  One such read was Robert Sapolsky's A Primate's Memoir.  This book is a personal account of life with a troop of baboons in the Serengeti.  I mean growing up watching Jane Goodall and everything we learned from her, who wouldn’t want to read this?!  Sapolsky studies the relationship between the level of stress hormones and the animal's position in the social hierarchy – something that I think we’d all be interested in!  Throughout the book he provides insightful descriptions of animal behavior, doubled with reflections about local politics and the daily challenges of a New Yorker living in the bush.  Sapolsky is also the author of ''Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers'' and ''The Trouble With Testosterone'' and has been said to be one of the finest natural history writers around.

Now….back to reading!  I’ve recently picked up “The Gene: An Intimate History” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee.  According to one book review I read, the book promises to “weave science, social history, and a personal narrative to tell a story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices...

Bugging Off!


Friday, August 26, 2016

The Art of Topping Up

I never know when inspiration for a blog may come along.  Sometimes it’s a result of a question I received, or a newspaper, magazine or peer reviewed article I’ve read, or some ridiculous post on Facebook.  This week, it happened when I checked into my hotel room after a rather brutal travel day that kept me up for over 22 hours.  After ending up in the wrong hotel and charming my way into a room and a cancellation at my other hotel, I crashed - but not before I took the picture that happens to be the inspiration for this blog.

Maybe it was because I was punch drunk from being over tired, but the sight of these refillable containers in a well-respected hotel chain made me cringe, and yet it didn’t stop me from jumping into the tub to take a picture.  I was also sure to avoid the use of any of the soap they had offered the next morning.  Why?  Because topping up bulk soaps is just plain gross.  In fact 1 in 4 dispensers in public bathrooms are contaminated.  Combine that with the fact that there is enough evidence from published studies proving that bacteria can be found and thrive in soap dispensers, you can be sure that I will not be using it and risk spreading those germs all over my hands (or body or hair).

One example is a study by Zapka et al that looked at bacterial hand contamination and transfer after use of refillable soap dispensers. The study showed that washing hands with contaminated liquid soap actually increases the number of gram-negative bacteria on hands, directly demonstrating that bacteria from contaminated hands can be transferred to secondary surfaces. The researchers concluded that washing with contaminated soap not only defeats the purpose of hand washing but may contribute to the transmission of potentially harmful bacteria. 

Don’t believe that the problem only lies with hand soaps.  The disinfectants we use for daily disinfection, particularly if you’re using a concentrate that needs to be diluted can be just a bad.  There have been reports of bacteria growing in solutions of QUATs and that surfaces were dirtier after cleaning than before cleaning when conducting ATP tests.  One of my favorite questions from the field is whether you can add some of the same “juice” found in premoistened wipes and poor it into the wipes to re-wet them because they have dried out.  The answer to that is NO.  If you do not want your wipes to dry, ensure the lid on your wipes container is closed!

I hope I haven’t scared you from using soap dispensers in public.  Hand hygiene is of course critical to our well-being.  I do hope that you’ll look at refillable soap and disinfectant containers in a new way and join me in the “war” against topping up!

Bugging Off!


Friday, August 19, 2016

Green – the new official Olympic pool colour?

With the Olympic hype in the air, I thought I would keep the theme going.  Last week in the “Let down of Olympic proportions” blog, I lamented over the fact that all of the hype over hygiene conditions and illness seemed to be for naught.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that I’m hoping that the athletes, their families or spectators get sick.  It's just amazing to me that a little media hype over the potential of getting sick is probably enough to remind people to do what they should be doing!  Washing their hands!

That said, I’m not sure any media hype would have helped the “green pool” situation……   I’m sure that many of you have seen the pictures of the bright green pool.   Who could miss it?!  A google search for “green pools in Rio” lead to 87,200,000 in just 0.67 seconds!  That has to be a world record of some sort!  Wading through the plethora of articles you need to be a bit of a detective and not believe verbatim everything that you read.

What seems to be consistent is that an inadvertent addition of a large quantity of hydrogen peroxide to the pools was added - around 160 litres or 42 gallons to be exact - which essentially inactivated the ‘chlorine’.  The fact that mixing hydrogen peroxide and chlorine together will inactivate each other is true.  This reaction essentially will degrade the chlorine to a point where it is no longer effective meaning certain “organic compounds” (i.e. algae, probably) could grow in the pool.  According to the various news articles I scoured, when the pools first turned green, officials were mystified as to why they suddenly had one blue pool, and one green one. Initially they put it down to a chemical imbalance, which was technically correct, but were uncertain of the root cause of the problem.  Then, according to accounts from some athletes, the green pools started smelling like farts.

While somewhat humorous, this really is not a laughing matter.  Mixing chemicals deliberately or inadvertently can lead to serious health risks.  In this case the mixing of chlorine and hydrogen peroxide seems to have been an error.  One that causes the water to turn green, but did not have a significant health threat.   As many articles indicate the green colour was a result of an algae bloom.  In chatting with my R&D experts it is also conceivable that the green colour was due to the use of an indicator that turns green when the chlorine levels are depleted in the pool.  In this scenario, if the water turns acidic by addition of an acidic formulation by mistake, the chlorine would degrade and the indicator would visually show this depletion.

Regardless, mixing of chemicals can be dangerous and this highlights the importance of effective training to ensure those tasked with using chemicals to chlorinate pools or clean environmental surfaces understand the potential deadly impact that mixing chemicals can have.  As I coined back in 2011, the “Custodial Chemist” is very prevalent. This group of people believe that their collective years as professional cleaners is far more knowledgeable then formulating chemists who have years of education in chemistry or chemical engineering and develop the products the Custodial Chemist use. The Custodial Chemist is someone who mixes products together in the belief they are making a better product (or simplifying their job). Why use a degreaser or glass cleaner followed by a disinfectant when you can mix them together and create a degreaser-disinfectant or the best disinfectant glass cleaner on the market?!

Of course in Rio we’re not talking about cleaning windows, but regardless of the root cause of how hydrogen peroxide was added to the pool, a Custodial Chemist was obviously lurking at the poolside!

Bugging Off!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Let down of Olympic proportions….

I’m sure many of you are caught up in the hype of the Summer Olympics.  Who doesn’t like spending 16 days watching athletes compete and cheer on our countries?  I’m a fan, but not a super fan.  Unless of course I’m around during the Equestrian events - then I’m glued to the TV! As my husband can attest, if I am watching the Show Jumping events I am counting strides and leaning forward at the same time the rider is!

This year’s Olympics has been particularly interesting, as I cannot think of any other that has been as marred with concerns over potential infectious diseases.  From Zika virus concerns which lead to a number of golfers backing out over concerns for their health, the health of their spouses and future children to the coverage over concerns that have also been whirling for months for sailors and rowers over the contaminated water and what bugs lurk in there.

Whenever a group this large congregates, there is bound to be a bug or two that spreads through the athletes.  But have the concerns over contaminated water and other hygiene conditions come true?  Well, in my quick google search I certainly found numerous news channels prophesying that athletes risk getting sick, but I’ve only found 1 article published that talks to a Belgian sailor falling sick after racing.  While some illnesses may being kept low key so as not to ruin the chances of team sports etc., I would think with all of the hoopla leading up to the Olympics if people were getting sick we’d hear about it.  I mean we have heard about the pools turning green!

What about the horses?  Like humans they’re prone to getting sick and the riders at the Olympics and their horses are some of the most highly traveled athletes around!  According to several news sources, Dutch Olympic dressage rider Adelinde Cornelissen entered the arena on her horse Parzival, guided him through a few movements, and then rode off the field and out of the competition.  Parzival had been bitten on the face by a poisonous insect and developed a fever.  Cornelissen sensed something was wrong with her faithful mount and rather than risk his health, she gave up on her Olympic moment knowing it would also impact her entire team.   High fives to Cornelissen!

Now, I’m not jumping on the media hype band wagon.  Instead I am wondering if all the hype and concern about hygienic conditions has in fact increased the focus on preventative measures such as frequent hand washing.  Could it be that because there was a perceived risk due to the media hype the athletes and their trainers have stepped up their infection prevention measures?  I know I’m more vigilant when travelling, particularly to areas where hygiene is not the same as I am accustomed to!

As for watching the Olympics, now that I’m done my blog I can go check out what happened today.  You can bet I will keep an eye out to see what transpires in terms of people and horses getting sick!

Bugging Off!