Will this new paint really kill harmful bacteria?

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Last week, Sherwin-Williams announced that it's introducing a new kind of paint, Paint Shield, that can kill harmful bacteria. The paint could be a boon to hospitals and health care facilities, where bacteria is abundant and can be deadly.


In a statement, the company boasts what the new product, which is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), can do:

Surfaces painted with Paint Shield kill greater than 99.9 percent of Staph (Staphylococcus aureus), MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), E. coli (Escherichia coli), VRE (Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis) and Enterobacter aerogenes after two hours of exposure… EPA-test protocol showed that once it is applied, the effectiveness of Paint Shield lasts for up to four years, as long as the integrity of the surface is maintained.

An ad for Paint Shield explains that the new product is essentially a combination of a microbicide with waterborne, or latex, paint. The active ingredient is a quaternary ammonium compound, which is used commonly as a disinfectant.

Some experts, however, are skeptical that the product would make much of a difference, because infectious diseases like staph, MRSA, and others are often transmitted from person to person, rather than from a surface to a patient. ABC News reports:

Dr. Anthony Harris, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland, said that most hospital-acquired infections occur when a medical staff member transmits a pathogen, either a bacteria or virus, from one patient to another… Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, noted that the focus right now in hospitals has been on cutting down infections through "interpersonal interactions."

Still, they remain open to other solutions. Schaffner told ABC News that "every little bit helps," adding, "maybe in that circumstance [the product] will add another small measure of projection."

A CDC survey showed that about 4% of hospital patients will contract a bacterial infection during their hospital stay. The survey also found that "there were an estimated 722,000 HAIs in U.S acute care hospitals in 2011, and "about 75,000 hospital patients with HAIs died during their hospitalizations."


The paint is set to hit shelves next year.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.