A kindergarten in the Kowloon Tong district of Hong Kong created confusion among parents and scientific experts by installing a steam vinegar dispenser at the entrance of the building as a supposed means of preventing the spread of the Chinese coronavirus, a report revealed Thursday.
The Chinese language newspaper Apple Daily reported that the machine dispenses vaporized water mixed with about two percent vinegar. The mixture’s droplets then get sprayed onto the children as a form of attempted disinfectant. The school cited an article the Harvard University School of Public Health’s website published, asserting that “acetic acid in vinegar is strong enough to kill some household pathogens.”
The article notes:
After cooking, the next most popular use for vinegar — particularly white vinegar — is cleaning. While the 5% acetic acid in vinegar is strong enough to kill some household pathogens, it does not kill them all (e.g., salmonella) and is not recommended as a replacement for commercial disinfectants.
However, distilled white vinegar is an inexpensive, nontoxic “green” product that may be useful for certain household chores. It appears to work particularly well on removing mineral deposits and soap scum, such as in sinks, drains, and shower stalls.
Local health experts have cast doubt on the efficacy of such measures.
William Chui, president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Hong Kong, said hospitals do not use vinegar because bacteria can latch onto droplets, actually increasing the likelihood that it will spread. He added that such chemicals also commonly cause adverse skin reactions and irritations, especially among young children.
“It could also irritate the nose, throat, and even the lungs,” he told Coconuts Hong Kong. “If the children, or adults, have asthma, it could trigger an asthma attack.”
Amid concern among parents about the possible side effects, the school stopped using the machines.
As of Thursday, Hong Kong’s health authorities have recorded 5,162 cases and 105 deaths. Given its population of approximately 7.25 million and the dense nature of its living conditions, this indicates that it has had one of the most successful coronavirus responses in the world.
Despite having won praise for its successful handling of the pandemic, Hong Kong is one of many countries where virologists fear a second wave of infection could be imminent. On Thursday, the secretary of Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee revealed the city’s China-controlled executive was examining proposals to create a legal framework to force people to get tested for the virus.