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The use of ‘Air Doctor’ virus blockers as protection against COVID-19, how effective are they?

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Of recent, many notable personalities and political figures around the world go about their respective public functions with the ‘Air Doctor’ virus blocker tag. Sometimes known as ‘Virus Shut-Out’, they look like normal ID badges. 

But according to their manufacturers, they are made of chemicals to wipe out airborne pathogens and protect wearers from disease.

The manufacturers noted that the Air Doctor badge releases small amounts of chlorine dioxide which can kill airborne pathogens, including the coronavirus.

It can be hung on the chest, pocket, or bag.

But how true is this claim and how effective are these virus blockers?

How does it work?

As we adapt to new realities, new questions constantly arise. What kind of masks should be worn? Can air blockers be the solution for any of these problems? 

Manufacturers claim that virus removal cards can kill bacteria and viruses because of the key ingredient; chlorine dioxide, a disinfectant used to treat drinking water and sterilise medical equipment. 

The claim is that it is able to “provide protection against airborne pathogens”, presumably including the novel coronavirus.

The tags, according to the manufacturers, “eliminate all forms of microbial life” and provide “ultimate protection against airborne infection diseases”, including for children, pregnant women and immuno-compromised people such as cancer patients. 

The product is sold under various commercial names, including Air Doctor, Virus Shut-Out and Chlorine Card.

Also, a Japan based company Kiyou Jochugiku Co. Ltd in July, launched “Air Doctor” in India. According to the company,  it is a portable product that helps prevent viruses, bacteria, and fungi from coming in contact with the user within a 1-meter radius. It contains sodium chloride, natural inorganic substances – natural zeolite.

The company noted that the product is approved worldwide by the World Health Organization (WHO), United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration and The Japan Ministry of Health, Welfare & Labor.

The product has been marketed as a flu treatment in Japan since 2015, long before the novel coronavirus emerged late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan. 

However, the Japanese consumer affairs agency on May 15, 2020 warned the public that the product was ineffective against COVID-19.

How much does it cost?

According to the manufacturers, once it is opened, the tags are effective for up to one month. 

However, the effective period may differ under different circumstances.

Dubawa found out that Cleaneat Integrated Services, is one of the major dealers of Air Doctor, Virus busters, and other air purifiers in Nigeria. 

Dubawa found the items for sale online, checks revealed that the price of Air Doctor depends on the quality and also fluctuates depending on the level of demand for the tags. 

Currently, the retail price for the Air Doctor tag is N17,000 while the wholesale price is N150,000/pack containing 12 pieces.

How effective are these cards? 

The card has been banned in several countries this year, including in the US, Thailand, and the Philippines.

The “virus blockers” were originally created in Japan. They have been banned in Vietnam and Thailand, but are on sale in Hong Kong, the Middle East, Russia, and the U.S. under a number of different brand names.

In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned people to avoid products containing chlorine dioxide, saying that its ingestion by a number of individuals as a prophylactic against the virus has resulted in “serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.” 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has banned Virus Shut Out badges from entering domestic ports, and instructed Amazon to remove the product from their site. 

Last month, when President Donald Trump made comments suggesting that injecting disinfectant could treat the coronavirus, supporters in conspiracy circles such as QAnon jumped at the notion that he was referring to chlorine dioxide — the chemical compound has long been touted and sold by fringe figures as a cure for everything from HIV to the common cold.

No available evidence ‘Air Doctor’ purifies the air – NCDC

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), which is the country’s national public health institute, has stated that there is no available evidence to suggest the use of a body-worn tag often marketed as ‘Air Doctor’ purifies the air around the wearer. 

The efficacy of such air-purifier pouches outdoors is also yet to be established, with Kiyou Jochugiku saying it becomes less effective in open-air settings. 

Notable personalities in Nigeria have appeared in public in recent weeks wearing the “virus removal cards”, clip-on tags marketed as prevention against infectious diseases. 

‘Devices have not been registered by NAFDAC’

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control disowned Air Doctor and other products that are marketed as capable of blocking COVID-19 from infecting the wearers.

The regulatory agency told PUNCH HealthWise that the devices have not been registered by NAFDAC, even though it received applications for registration of some of them.

An epidemiologist and population health scientist at Harvard University, Dr. Ibraheem Abioye, said, “There is really no evidence that the products work. The sellers claim that the products sanitise the air around the wearer. But we know that some of the people who have been the main advocates still became infected with COVID-19.

“There are already science-backed actions that people should take and shams like these are likely to put people at risk.”

Conclusion

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, WHO has repeatedly stated that there is no specific cure or prevention for COVID-19. 

In August, the World Health Organization said there may never be a magical cure for the coronavirus even as scientists and drugmakers across the globe race to find a safe and effective vaccine.

Air Doctor products are not licenced by FDA and in any other country by its drug control agency.  

The active ingredient in Air Doctor and similar products is authorized to be used to disinfect medical instruments or food and is not to be used as a human protection against infection.

The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with The Nation to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country. 

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