COVID-19 Causes EPA to Expand the Number of Disinfectants Approved for Use Against Novel Coronavirus
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released an expanded list of approved disinfectants that manufacturers can state to be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. EPA’s action means that EPA has now approved over 200 disinfectant products that can make this assertion. While the disinfectants on EPA’s expanded list have not been tested specifically against the pandemic coronavirus, EPA reasonably expects that these products will be effective against this virus because they all have been demonstrated to be effective against either a harder-to-kill virus or a different human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2. If a product is not on EPA’s list, a manufacturer cannot make efficacy statements for the new coronavirus.
EPA had previously released a smaller list of disinfectant products for use against SARS-CoV-2, in accordance with its emerging viral pathogens program. EPA’s emerging viral pathogen program allows disinfectant product manufacturers to request approval to distribute information that their product can be used against an emerging virus, if the product has demonstrated efficacy against a similar or more difficult-to-kill viral pathogen. While EPA’s action is not a full FIFRA approval of a label amendment, it does permit product manufacturers to disseminate information indicating that the product can be used against an emerging viral pathogen.
Expansion of the list of EPA-approved disinfectants that are expected to be effective against the pandemic corona virus is particularly important because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces as a key practice to help slow the spread of the virus. While EPA has concluded that the listed disinfectants likely are effective against the SARS-CoV-2, conclusive data about the coronavirus and how it is spread are still not available. Notwithstanding that validated efficacy data for these products against SARS-CoV-2 do not exist, however, the structure of the virus supports the conclusion that it should be one of the easier coronaviruses to kill. In fact, SARS-CoV-2 has a structure that puts it in the category of viruses that are the easiest type to kill. Fortunately for consumers, the products on EPA’s list include many ready-to-use disinfectant wipes and sprays that have demonstrated efficacy against viruses that are harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2.
Full regulatory approval of FIFRA amendments to include the SARS-CoV-2 virus on product labels will likely take substantially more time. For now, these actions constitute a good start to provide information to consumers regarding products that they can use to protect themselves and their families.