Plaid Cymru questions use of ‘controversial’ ozone disinfecting machines in schools
Plaid Cymru has questioned the Welsh Government’s plan to use “controversial” ozone disinfecting machines in schools.
The party’s education spokesperson Sian Gwenllian MS was responding to an announcement that £5.9m will be spent on technology to improve air quality and disinfect classrooms and lecture theatres in schools, colleges and universities.
Of that money £3.31m will be spent on ozone disinfecting machines, which will reduce cleaning times, improve disinfection and reduce costs, according to the Welsh Government.
But Plaid Cymru says that “we all need to be satisfied that Welsh Government is absolutely certain that they are a safe option before introducing them.”
The funding is expected to supply more than 1,800 machines, at least one for every school, college and university in Wales.
The Welsh Government will also fund 30,000 CO2 ‘traffic light’ monitors, costing £2.58m. These will include sensors which provide a visual signal of deteriorating internal air quality.
The monitors will alert teachers and lecturers when CO2 levels rise, notifying them when air quality needs to improve, thereby aiding the control of ventilation during the winter.
Responding to news that Welsh Government will be providing CO2 monitors and ozone disinfectant systems to all schools, colleges and universities, Plaid Cymru’s education spokesperson Sian Gwenllian MS said: “Scientific advice has long highlighted the importance of air quality in limiting coronavirus transmission – and we’ve been calling for more guidance and resources for schools colleges and universities on the subject of ventilation since last year.
“The provision of CO2 monitors to educational settings, while long overdue, is welcome, and is in line with other nations.
“It’s important that measures we use are in line with the latest scientific guidance and I urge Welsh Government to provide reassurance to educational settings on the use of devices such as ozone disinfectant systems.
“The use of ozone disinfecting machines is controversial to say the least and we all need to be satisfied that Welsh Government is absolutely certain that they are a safe option before introducing them.”
Gwynedd GP Dr Eilir Hughes has criticised the move by the Welsh Government to introduce ozone disinfection machines in schools.
He wrote in Nation.Cymru: “By turning to technology that is more familiar to abattoirs than classrooms, the Welsh Government is willing to use extra cash to make us feel safer, but doesn’t actually achieve much to reduce risk.
“Ozone is considered a toxic substance. The EPA refers to the well-known risk to human health when expose to ozone.
“Using ozone to disinfect does seems counterintuitive. In an attempt to lower the risk of harm to human health, we are using toxic chemicals when safer alternatives are available.
“Instead of rolling out expensive, untried, unnecessary technology that has the potential of being damaging to the environment and dangerous to human health, I’d argue we should place our efforts on interventions that provide the greatest benefit in reducing risk.
“This should focus on what we know. Spending time with others outside offers a 20-fold reduction in transmission. If natural ventilation is provided for indoor settings, transmission reduces by up to 70%.”
The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said he was pleased that learners will be able to return to classrooms and lecture theatres in the autumn with fewer restrictions in place.
“This investment in CO2 monitors will help improve air quality, while the disinfecting machines will enable classrooms to return to normal use quicker,” he said.
“This supports our common goal of ensuring learners can continue learning together with their teachers and friends.
“But we must keep our guard up against Covid-19. These measures will complement, rather than replace our current advice – which includes ensuring hygiene is maintained, and washing hands thoroughly and more often than usual.”
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