Tom Pheidon of Heartland Pathogend Talks About Cleaning Up COVID-19

The HL Restoration Impacting Midwest Industries vlog series is where our very own Steve Tutt speaks with our industry partners and others about what they do, their passion, and the great things they are doing in the Midwest all while having a little bit of fun! Click here to view all of our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Steve Tutt: Welcome back to HL Restorations Impacting Midwest Industries. Today’s guest is Tom Pheidon. How are you, Tom?

Tom Pheidon: I’m doing great, Steve. Thanks for having me here.

ST: You’re welcome. Tom, you’re with Heartland Pathogend, right?

TP: That’s right.

ST: Tell us a little bit about Heartland.

TP: Well, Heartland started about 18 months ago. We were an offshoot of a company that started about 10 years ago in Florida, the owner of which had a daughter who got a staph infection in a weight room at her high school, and they couldn’t get rid of it. 

Francis Grinstead, who is the founder of the company, said, “There’s got to be a better way of eradicating things like this in schools and hospitals.” So, they develop this technology off of that, and it’s been around for about 10 years.

ST: Okay, now, how did you get involved in the company? What is your title?

TP: I’m the president. We actually saw this technology a couple of years ago and were kind of blown away by it, and we assembled a couple of business partners, and we went down to Florida and saw it in action and thought, “You know, this has a real future.” 

This is way before COVID, and we thought it had some real application in mold, remediation, schools, buses, a lot of different things.

The Math of Killing Germs

ST: So, the reason I brought you onto the show is because your team came in and talked to HL Restorations about how we could team up together and work together in the pandemic that we’re in right now with COVID-19.

So, when I had that meeting, I was blown away by the gentleman Scott that came in and talked to us and the things he was saying and educating us on your company, but what also what we’re going through in the pandemic. 

It just blew me away, and that’s really why I wanted you to come on the show. So, thank you again for showing up. What makes Heartland Pathogend different from other cleaning companies around.

TP: Well, there are a few things. One, you know, not to get too deep into the EPA, logarithms, and things like that, but the EPA registers disinfectants, and you’re either registered at a one, two, three, four, five, or a six. 

Six is being “we get rid of every germ and bacteria virus that’s present,” and then it kind of goes down from there. So, we thought that, you know, a level six was going to have some real application in hospitals and then COVID hit.

ST: So, we were talking about something before, I think you called it logs?

TP: Yeah, the EPA says, if you start out with a million of something and you decrease it, you decrease it logarithmically in factors of 10. 

It gets down into the science and the math of how this all works, but if you start out with a million of something, and you get down to essentially nothing, that takes a factor of 10, six times. That’s why they call it level six.

ST: So, if you say it’s a level six, how would you know? How do you know something is level six?

TP: That’s a good question. One of the key differentiators of our product, in addition to being a level six, is the validation step that we take. We know that there are bacteria that are the most difficult to get rid of. It’s common in literature, geobacillus is one of those bacteria. 

So what we do in our process when we fog a room is we take a geobacillus spores on a little piece of metal, and it’s in a Tyvek package, so nobody’s touching it, and we hang that in the room. 

So, when we finish a job, we’ll take that spore, and we’ll put it in an incubator for 24 hours, and if it comes back that the geobacillus has been killed, we know that we killed everything below it, as well as the geobacillus. Geobacillus is required by the EPA that you have to have a level six in order to kill it. 

ST: Okay, so by killing that we know we’ve achieved level six. All right, but you say you’re killing the germs in the room? How do you validate that you’re actually thorough? 

TP: Like I said, if we know that if we kill the geobacillus, we’ve killed everything because geobacillus is the most difficult to get rid of bacteria that are out there. So, we follow that up with a computer-driven report on the process. 

That becomes important as a differentiator because the question about reopening and offices and safer employees and that sort of thing, this gives the owner or the tenant the confidence to know that we prepared this space and we cleaned it to the best of our ability. 

It’s at a level six, here’s the test, and here’s the computer report that validates or that shows that we validated to that level six. So, those two things, in addition to the killing of the bacteria to a level six are the three big differentiators that the product has.

ST: So, why do I need a higher log kill if what I’m doing is working just fine?

TP: That’s a great question. You know, we don’t know if it’s working unless we validate it. So, Lysol gets beat up a lot, but let’s use them as an example. The EPA has like 500 different disinfectants that are kind of in that same classification as Lysol, which would be a level three. 

So, you’re spraying it on, and you’re going to get 99.9% of the germs killed, and that sounds great and sounds like you’re doing really good, but what do you have remaining? If you kill 99.9% of a million germs, you’ve got 1,000 bacteria leftover, which will be in the millions by tomorrow. 

They replicate that 1,000 virus cells will get you COVID-19, so if you’re going to clean something to a level three, you have to make sure that you do it the way the back of the can says, not what the front of the can says and that’s the big issue relative to COVID-19. 

A 99.9% solution will kill it just fine, but what if you miss it? Scott and I, my partner, we work in hospitals quite a bit, and the hospital studies have shown that almost 50% have what they call high touch areas like light switches and door handles and knobs and what have you. 

The stuff that people touch a lot. The hospital cleaners miss 50% of that when they clean, so if you’re missing it, then you’re not killing it, right? 

Another thing about the back of a can of Lysol says that the first thing you have to do is you have to spray it on, and then you have to wipe it off and then once you’ve done that, then you can actually start killing the real germs that are down on the table, and when you do that, you have to spray it on and leave it for anywhere from four to 10 minutes to kill COVID. 

Nobody talks about that. They talk about, “Oh, it’s an easy virus to kill,” but I have yet to see anybody use that technique when they’re cleaning. That’s the big challenge.

Confusion Surrounding COVID-19

ST: So, I’ve got to ask you though because I mean, it’s all over the place. When you talk to different people, the fear was just crazy when COVID hit. I mean, everybody was scared of it because it was an unknown. 

Now that it’s become more of a known thing, and we got through phase one, and we’re talking about a phase two coming through, how fearful should people be with this? With COVID-19. 

Should we still be really scared of this virus? Or are we taking steps where we don’t have to be as scared as we were in the first place?

TP: I kind of liken it to a sports opponent. You’re not fearful of them, but you sure have a healthy respect for it. If you’re doing the things that you need to do to get out in front of it, I think then you just kind of have to go on with your life, to be honest with you. 

That’s where I think that we are fit is with our product is like, we want to hit the reset button with us. We want to take this down from a million of something down to zero. 

We want to create a space where you can come in, and your employees can feel safe, and then we go from there. The big question that’s asked a lot is, “Well, now that you’ve killed everything, what if I come back in the room? What am I going to find in there?” 

That’s a great question. You have to get through all the things that have been in that room up until the time you’ve eradicated. Some of them go dormant, but some of them do not, and they build up over time. 

If you’ve ever been to a restaurant and sat down at the table and it feels kind of sticky. Nobody likes that. It doesn’t feel clean. A lot of cleaners have that stickiness, and once they clean it, and they’re wiping the table off. 

Basically, they’re wiping dirt around because they’re not really cleaning it. Then the stickiness starts to attract germs, and you’re not getting rid of them.

ST: So, the question is really on the touch. People are telling me, “You can’t pick up COVID-19 on touchpoints anymore.” You know, they changed it over and over, back and forth, they don’t even really know, and that’s where there’s really an unknown. 

What are you hearing now? I mean, can someone touch my computer and then I touch it, I’m going to get COVID-19?

TP: I don’t think anybody really knows. I mean, we’ve heard anywhere from two million people were going to die, down to 100,000 people are going to die, and it seems to kind of change every day. That goes back to my healthy respect. 

I don’t think we can live in fear of whether or not it’s on your computer or not, I think that you just have to trust that you’ve done everything you can to make that computer as clean as you can before you go to use it. 

Now, I’ll be quite honest, I’m not glad COVID-19 is here, but it woke a lot of people up that didn’t have the best hygiene. So, now everybody’s being a little bit safer than they used to be, and it’s good to see, but I just don’t want people to be scared to death to come out of their house.

ST: Well, what is the EPA certification? You have to have some kind of certification with the EPA to do this, right? What’s that entail?

TP: Yeah, exactly. There’s a process that companies have to go through to get their product registered with the EPA, and when you’re filling out all the data that you have about your product, the testing is by what your claims are. 

These letters are 20 pages long, and we can say that, but we can’t say this our product, and then the EPA will come back with a number essentially and say you are a six log or a level five, four, or a three, I don’t see too many down below three that are even on the market, but that’s the process.

ST: Okay, I want to actually kind of get into the weeds a little bit with you on the process. With us, when we do water mitigations, we’ve got some different levels, as well. Walk us through from level one to level six, or is it a different type of procedure that you go through on each one?

TP: Well, there’s a number of different things that our company can do. To get to that level six, as I said, we’ll seal the room and close all the vents. 

If we’re doing an entire space like if you’re doing an entire house or building, we can shut down the HVAC system and just put the fans on recirculate. 

When we do that, we are not only killing everything in the rooms, but we’re also disinfecting the ventilation systems, as well. So that’s a level six. 

We also have a product that’s called a hand fogger, which basically plugs into the machine, and we can take a hand fogger with this 7% hydrogen peroxide and get that all-encompassing space. 

We’ve just recently worked with a company that is releasing a product that’s a handheld UV light when we need a quick kill. This would be about a level three kill, so it’s getting 99.9%, but it’s doing it in two seconds. 

Compared to the Lysol, it’s going to take anywhere from five to 10 minutes to get that same spot disinfected. So, those are a few of the things that we do.

ST: If my wife watches this, we’re going to be buying a bunch of UV lights around the house.

Alright, well, once Heartland Pathogend, leaves how long is the space decontaminated? 

TP: That’s the question that we get asked every time and the way that we answer that is back to that bacteria. It’s building over time, and what we’re doing is we’re hitting the reset button on that bacteria, and we’re getting rid of all of it. 

When you bring anything back in there, that’s why we don’t say that we’re sterilizing anything because technically we are while we seal this room, and when it’s done it’s as sterile as an operating room, but as soon as you open that door and you walk back in it, and you’re not wearing anything sterile, you’re bringing whatever contaminants you brought in off the street with you. 

By hitting that reset button on the bacteria, you’re greatly increasing your opportunity to be in a safe space.

ST: Okay, we always get the question when we come in, and we do a process of any type, “What type of products do you use?” So, what does Heartland use in terms of products?

TP: Well, we use a brand of the company that makes the fogger, and this is a 7% hydrogen peroxide solution. 

It’s a kind of a third, fourth, fifth generation product compared to what the original product with hydrogen peroxide was, which was a vaporized hydrogen peroxide used about five times as much. 

The advantage there is that we can clean a space with the 7% hydrogen peroxide, and we know that we’ve killed everything. Once that peroxide dissipates, it breaks down into water and oxygen. 

It’s very safe to use around plants, animals, that sort of thing. Once it’s gone and we can come in and test thoroughly and make sure it’s all gone. That whole process takes about three hours.

ST: Okay. So, what’s the new normal? Whatever that new normal is, right? What’s it look like for our community getting back to that normal that we’re used to? When’s that process? 

TP: I think we’re going through it right now. I think we’re starting to see things open up, and I was thinking about this today. When we saw the virus case numbers increase and then decrease, they didn’t go straight up and then straight down. 

They kind of had this little jagged little line, and I think with the reopening, we’re going through some of that now. It’s not going to just be a straight line curved at the top. 

We opened up, and then Major League Baseball shut down for a few days, now they’re getting ready to open back up again on Monday, so we’re kind of up and, but we’re going to get to the top eventually. I just don’t know when that’s going to be

How Heartland Is Doing Their Part 

ST: How does Heartland fit into that, and what can you guys offer?

TP: That’s a good question. We have a couple of things that we can do. 

One of the things we do is a preventative type of stuff that will come in quarterly, maybe during the semester break at a school or something like that, but if a school calls us and they said, “Hey, we’ve got a flu outbreak, and our attendance is down 25% because we’ve got so much,” we can go in, and we can go get those high traffic areas at a school. 

If they get something really bad like staph or MRSA, we can go in and just shut the whole school down and get rid of the MRSA. So we’re doing a couple of things. 

ST: So, if someone called me and I referred them to you, where do they need to go to find you? What’s your website, and what’s the contact information that we can share?

TP: calm or is easier to type in.

ST: Okay, we’ll put that up on the screen, and you guys take a look at it. If you have any questions, please reach out to these guys because I’ve been really impressed with talking to both you and Scott. 

So, I’m looking forward to working with you in the future. I’m going to twist it around a little bit. I’m going to ask a few different other questions. Would you rather permanently live in a roller coaster park or in a zoo?

TP: I think I’ll go with the zoo

ST: How come?

TP: That whole equilibrium thing. When I was 20, I could do those rides all day long. I took my kids to an amusement park when I was 50, and it didn’t work out too well.

ST: Would you rather be able to breathe underwater or have the agility of a cat?

TP: Breathing underwater would be awesome. There’s a whole world under there.

ST: What makes someone a hero?

TP: I just think the way that they go about living their life. They become a role model. I think that those are the heroes. I think everybody’s afraid when they have to deal with a difficult event. I think people get through the fear, and those people are heroes.

ST: If you inherited a private jet from a stranger, what would you do with it?

TP: I’d fog it. I would fog that thing because I don’t have any idea who’s been on that plane. That’d be the first thing I do, and then I would probably just bebop all over the world with it.

ST: That’s a great answer, I was not ready for that one. What is something you’ve tried that you’ll never try again. 

TP: I think the bungee cord experience. Once was enough. That wasn’t even a bucket list thing, that was just a dare. 

ST: Well, you heard it here, folks. So, again, thank you for coming in and talking to us. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. You guys look at the screen here, you’ll see their website and contact information for you to reach out to them. 

If you have any questions, they can just come out. If they want you to come out and take a look at their building. Does that cost anything?

TP: Oh, gosh, no. We’d be happy to.

ST: Well, you heard it. If you have any questions, we’ll get you the information, and thanks again for coming on.

TP: Thanks for having me, Steve.

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