FACT CHECK: Disinfectant tag, Air doctor CANNOT protect you against COVID-19

CLAIM: Air Doctor contains sodium chlorite which helps in prevention of COVID-19

VERDICT: FALSE

FULL STORY:  A post on some WhatsApp groups claims that a disinfectant, Air Doctor helps to protect people from viruses, bacteria and fungus.

While adding that the disinfectant works within one meter radius, the accompanying texts claim that “top politicians and governors use this to protect themselves.”

Further key phrase search on Twitter showed that some Nigerians also claimed to have used the disinfectant tag.

The same claim also appeared on Twitter.

Akin Oyebode who tweeted via @AO1379 said that he “saw a man today with a chin mask and that Air Doctor pinned to his chest. Succeeded in getting him to wear the mask correctly, but no luck with the placebo. One out of two isn’t bad, I guess.” The tweet has been retweeted eight times and liked 64 times.

Another Twitter user, Mr. A who tweeted at @aminushehuuba1 said: “Air Doctor is a portable product that helps prevent viruses, bacteria, and fungi to come in contact with the user within a 1-meter radius. The product Air Doctor contains sodium chlorite, natural inorganic substances (natural zeolite) which helps in the prevention of virus.”

 

VERIFICATION: While the photo failed to turn out positive results on Google Reverse Image Search, a key phrase search traced the contents of the WhatsApp post to a September 4 tweet by Man Aman Singh Chhina, a journalist based in Chandigarh, Capital of Punjab in India.

The tweet reads: “Interesting to see the COAS wearing Air Doctor- ‘a portable product that helps to prevent viruses, bacteria, and fungus within one metre radius’. Looks useful, must get one.”

But the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its public health advisory of September 20, said there is no scientific evidence to back claims on the benefit of the use of ‘air doctor’ tags against COVID-19

The NCDC, in the advisory signed by its Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, stated that the active ingredients of the tags often advertised as chlorine dioxide and sodium chlorite, do not exist in the environment for a long time.

The advisory reads: “The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is aware of the wrong use of body worn labels or tags often marketed as ‘Air Doctor’ by members of the public. There is no scientific evidence that these tags can protect individuals from getting infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“NCDC’s advice is that anyone that chooses to wear these tags, should continue to adhere to the other non-pharmaceutical interventions, which we know reduces the risk of transmission of the virus.

“On the other hand, there is evidence that non-pharmaceutical measures such as physical distancing (avoiding crowded places), use of face masks in public settings, frequent hand washing, and respiratory hygiene can reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19.

“These body tags are touted as air disinfectant with the ability to inactivate any germ within the surrounding of the wearer over a long period of time. We have found no evidence to support the claim that “Air doctor” offers any benefit to the wearer. The active ingredients which are often advertised as chlorine dioxide and sodium chlorite, do not exist in the environment for a long time. Those who wear these body tags often do so as a substitute for facemasks and other recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions. This is unsafe and can contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

“In view of the above, NCDC offers the following guidance to members of the public: There is no scientific evidence that disinfectant tags often known as ‘Air Doctor’ can protect people against COVID-19. The composition and concentration of the active ingredients in ‘Air Doctor’ is ineffective against SARS-CoV-2 which is the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Chlorine dioxide and its products, which are contained in such tags, can lead to serious health effects, especially in children.”

Also, the resident media & communication consultant of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Sayo Akintola told Tribune Online via WhatsApp that “NAFDAC has not approved any product of such. But I can confirm to you that some applications were received by the Agency. But none in this category has received the approval of the agency yet.”

CONCLUSION: As confirmed by experts, there is no scientific evidence to back the claim that Air Doctor tags prevent one from COVID-19.

NCDC, however, added that: “Effective and evidence-based preventive measures against COVID-19 are: regular hand washing with soap under running water or use of alcohol-based hand rubs (hand sanitizer), physical distancing of at least 2 metres, wearing of face mask when in public, routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces at homes and public places and ensuring cross ventilation in indoor settings.”

• This report, under the Information Saves Lives project, was done with support from Internews. Have you come across any suspicious COVID-19 claim or working COVID-19-focused solution, submit for verification using this submission form.

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