Tories seek ‘assurances’ that ‘controversial’ disinfecting machines are safe for schools
The Tories are seeking “assurances” that using “controversial” ozone disinfecting machines in schools is safe.
Shadow Minister for Education, Laura Anne Jones MS says the move by the Welsh Government “raises some serious concerns” because the devices will be used to spray a “toxic chemical” in classrooms.
She 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.
Plaid Cymru have also questioned the introduction of the ozone disinfecting machines, saying “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.
Welsh Conservatives have sought assurances from Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay over their plans to introduce ozone disinfecting machines into schools across Wales.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Education, Laura Anne Jones MS, said: “Anything that can be done to keep students in classrooms and minimise disruption is welcome, but using ozone disinfecting machines in schools raises some serious concerns.
“Spraying a toxic chemical in classrooms is a controversial move, and we need assurances from the Welsh Government that this is a safe thing to do.
“I understand that nobody will be in the room when these machines are operating, but as ozone can damage the lungs if inhaled, we need confirmation of what robust measures are going to be put in place to stop someone coming into contact with it.”
Gwynedd GP Dr Eilir Hughes has criticised the move by the Welsh Government to introduce ozone disinfection machines in schools.
He wrote on 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.”