Disinfect masks with gasoline? 'Baka joke lang,' says DOH after Duterte remark

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 22 2020 11:03 AM | Updated as of Jul 22 2020 07:48 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on July 21, 2020. Albert Alcain, Presidential Photo

MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte might be joking when he said the public can disinfect their face masks with gasoline, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.

"Alam niyo naman, 'pag nagsasalita si Presidente, baka mga jokes lang niya 'yun, especially for gasoline," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.

(You know how the President talks. Maybe it's one of his jokes, especially on the gasoline part.)

In a taped address aired Tuesday morning, the President said the public could dip their face mask in gasoline if they couldn't afford to use a disinfectant spray.

The US national public health institute warned of the risks posed by the flammable liquid when inhaled and exposed to skin.

Gasoline may cause asphyxiation in enclosed, poorly ventilated or low-lying areas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an advisory.

The CDC also said repeated or prolonged skin contact with liquid gasoline could degrease the skin, cause irritation and dermatitis.

First- and second-degree skin burns can occur from continuous contact with liquid gasoline for several hours, it added.

Exposure to gasoline through eye contact can also result in transient corneal injury, the CDC warned.

Gasoline is not part of the US Environmental Protection Agency's list of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Among those that have shown efficacy against the virus are ethyl and isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and chlorine dioxide, the EPA said on its website.

CLOTH MASKS

When Duterte mentioned in the same speech that the public could use their face masks twice, Vergeire said the President was referring to reusable cloth masks.

"May department memo tayo on rational use of protective equipment. 'Pag ikaw ay may symptoms, gamitin mo surgical mask. 'Pag ikaw ay nagtatrabaho sa ospital, N95 mask. Kapag sa community, cloth mask," she said.

(We have a department memorandum on the rational use of protective equipment. If you have symptoms, use a surgical mask. If you are working in a hospital, use an N95 mask. If you are in a community, use a cloth mask.)

The health official reminded the public that surgical masks were for single-use and should be discarded properly.

"Hindi mo 'yan puwede hugasan. Kasi 'pag hinugasan mo 'yan, may mga components 'yang mask na certain filtering mechanism, kapag hinugasan mo o binasa mo 'yan, mawawala na ang effect no'n," she said.

(You can't wash it because its filtration mechanism becomes ineffective.)

Meanwhile, cloth masks can be washed and hung to dry under direct sunlight after each use, Vergeire said.

In the absence of disinfectant spray, the DOH earlier recommended the use of alcohol or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

The alcohol should be made of 70 percent ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol while the hand sanitizer should contain at least 60 percent ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol to ensure that it is effective in killing bacteria and viruses.

The Philippines has so far logged 72,269 coronavirus infections since the pandemic began. The tally includes 1,843 people who succumbed to COVID-19 while 23,623 have recovered from the contagious disease.