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Our coverage on COVID‑19

Makers of “defend tag” clarifies effectiveness against COVID-19 either way, it’s still BS

The Ministry of Health and the National Poison Centre had recently debunked claims that a health tag can provide protection against COVID-19. Antah Pharma Sdn Bhd, the company that makes the Defend Tag has issued a statement over claims that were circulated online.

According to the official statement, their Defend Tag does not claim to prevent the spread of COVID-19 nor it is a preventive device against the potential contraction of COVID-19. They added that social media reports that claim otherwise are misleading and untrue.

As highlighted in the previous post, the product which is listed on Watsons online store for RM59.90 has no mention of COVID-19 and it doesn’t claim to offer protection against the coronavirus.

So what can this tag really do? Here’s the explanation from Antah Pharma:

Our product Defend tag utilises innovative technology combined with the proven efficacy of chlorine dioxide as an antimicrobial agent, making it effective against many known viruses and bacteria . Defend tag contains 5g of sodium chlorite in a sachet that releases standardised chlorine dioxide gas.

Due to its strong antiviral effect, chlorine dioxide is often used to sterilise medical and laboratory equipment, surfaces, rooms and tools. It can also be used as an oxidiser or disinfectant to kill pathogenic microorganisms such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. This chemical also works well in preventing and removing bio film.

In fact, chlorine dioxide is used to disinfect drinking water around the world. According to the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, chlorine dioxide is added to drinking water to protect people from harmful bacteria and other microorganisms. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)recognizes chlorine dioxide use as a drinking water disinfectant, and it is included in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Guidelines for drinking-water quality (GDWQ).

Although Defend tag has been devised to provide an extra level of protection against airborne microbes, it is not a substitute for diligent personal hygiene such as washing hands with soap and water and using sanitizers and face masks whenever necessary.

While it is true that Chlorine Dioxide is a form of disinfectant that is used to treat water, it is not proven to kill germs and bacteria in the form of a tag that you hang around your neck. As highlighted by the National Poison Centre, studies have shown that there’s no effect of disinfection of bacteria or virus from these body-worn devices. Although there are emitted gas, it is very low or not detectable at all.

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Yet, the product description for the Defend Tag on the Watsons online store claims that it can “eliminate 99.9% bacteria and viruses” and provide “1 cubic meter protection around the bearer”.

In summary, COVID-19 or not, there’s no solid scientific proof that hanging chlorine dioxide around your neck will provide protection against any virus or bacteria. Dr Ariane Davison, a virologist and immunologist have described these type of products as a complete scam. She even warned that Chlorine Dioxide is used to sterilise hard surfaces and should not be used near your face. Chlorine dioxide is also a hazardous gas but it depends on the quantity and concentration.

If you want to keep COVID-19 at bay, the best option is still to practise good hygiene by washing your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. The Ministry of Health has urged the public to refer to the ministry on any products that are being promoted as cures for COVID-19.

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Alexander Wong