In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials believed that one of the most effective ways to fight the spread of the virus was to disinfect highly touched surfaces. That led China, South Korea, France, Spain, and several other countries to spray copious amounts of disinfectant throughout densely populated urban areas. Fleets of trucks, drones, and even robots doused streets, parks, playgrounds, and other outdoor public spaces with virus-killing chemicals. In Indonesia, drones drenched homes in disinfectant from above. And in one village in Spain, tractors dumped hundreds of gallons of bleach onto a public beach. Infectious-disease experts, including the World Health Organization, have since denounced the practice as both ineffective and a potential health hazard to people, in particular respiratory irritation from inhaling the chemicals. Combining disinfectants, such as bleach and ammonia, could also release potentially fatal gases, WHO warned.
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