Question & Answer

Does microwaving books prevent the spread of COVID-19?

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There are claims circulating on social media that microwaving books prevents the spread of COVID-19. This is potentially dangerous, as books often contain metallic tags (Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags), which may burn if microwaved. The major transmission route for the COVID-19 virus is through droplets generated when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can be breathed in by, or land on, others nearby. Droplets may also land on nearby surfaces that others then touch. So when people touch their eyes, nose or mouth after touching these surfaces, they can potentially become infected. We are not certain how long SARS-CoV-2 can survive on surfaces, but as a guide, a recent study found that the coronavirus can survive for up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel. In public libraries, there are protocols in place to quarantine books for 72 hours once returned by members of the public (Guidelines for handling physical materials in the library during COVID-19) The Department of Education and Skills offers advice on sharing books in school. In summary:
  • The virus that causes COVID-19 survives for longer on hard surfaces like textbook covers and pencil cases, so each of these items should be be used by only one childand should be cleaned daily with regular household cleaning products
  • Children should not share their own schools books with other children
  • In cases where school books need to be shared, they should be covered or laminated with wipeable clear plastic coverings, which can be wiped with a suitable household cleaning agent between each use.
  • Children should be encouraged to perform hand hygiene before and after using books and other school supplies.
Research on the Coronavirus is rapidly evolving. However, we were unable to identify any ongoing or planned research to examine if microwaving books prevents the spread of COVID-19. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, proper hand washing, respiratory hygiene and social distancing should be practised.

Things to Remember

  • Good choices depend on thinking carefully about what you want to do.
  • Always ask yourself how sure are you that the possible advantages of your choice or behaviour outweigh the possible disadvantages.

Reviewers

  • Lead Researcher: Dr Colette Kelly, Health Promotion Research Centre, NUI Galway.
  • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.
  • Evidence Advisor: Dr Darren Dahly, Principal Statistician, HRB Clinical Research Facility, Cork, Ireland, and Senior Lecturer in Research Methods in the UCC School of Public Health.
  • Evidence Advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.