Any considering heeding President Trump’s advice to inject household disinfectant as a counter-maneuver to the coronavirus need only look to Spain for an example of why one should not pour bleach willy-nilly in ill attempts to fight COVID-19.
The country is facing intense backlash after reports that local officials sprayed bleach across 1.2 miles of coastal beach near the town of Zahara de los Atunes on its southern coast. This was done in an attempt to sanitize the area for children and families, who are allowed to visit beaches and other public spaces for the first time since early March. The move resulted in the devastation of the beach’s ecosystem, killing insects and migratory birds who nest in the nearby dunes.
“Bleach is used as a very powerful disinfectant, it is logical that it be used to disinfect streets and asphalt, but here the damage has been brutal,” said local environmentalist María Dolores Iglesias, as reported by the BBC. “They have devastated the dune spaces and gone against all the rules. It has been an aberration what they have done, also taking into account that the virus lives in people not on the beach. It is crazy.”
The environmental organization Greenpeace in Spain also condemned the action, comparing it to the recent comments made by Trump, tweeting, “Fumigating beaches in the middle of the breeding season for birds or the development of the invertebrate network that will support coastal fishing… is not one of Trump’s ideas. It is happening in Zahara de los Atunes.”
Spain’s regional Andalucian government has discussed fining local authorities for the decision. The government of Zahara de los Atunes has since apologized for the move, stating that it was done with good intentions to keep the beach area safe for families but failed to consider the environmental impact.