- Written by Mark Baumgardner, CHMM
WASHINGTON (October 21, 2020) —The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now approved more than 500 surface disinfectant products for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This is an important milestone for ensuring American businesses, families, schools, and other organizations have as many tools as possible to disinfect surfaces and protect themselves and their families against the novel coronavirus.
“Since the beginning of this coronavirus pandemic, the Trump Administration has worked to ensure that Americans have access to safe and effective surface disinfectant products to use against the novel coronavirus,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “With more than 500 products now on our list of disinfectants, Americans have a wide range of options to choose from to help protect themselves and their families from COVID-19.”
In early March, EPA released its initial List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. This list began with 85 products and continues to be updated on a weekly basis. The list is searchable and sortable, comes with helpful tips on how to use disinfectants properly, and features frequently asked questions to ensure correct product usage. EPA’s List N has received more than 20 million views and remains a valuable resource for the public.
The more than 500 wipes, sprays and other products on List N are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 because they demonstrate efficacy against:
- The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
- A pathogen that is harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2.
- A different human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2.
When using an EPA-registered disinfectant, it is important to follow the label directions for safe, effective use. These directions include, but are not limited to:
- Always follow the product label. This includes making sure to follow the contact time, which is the amount of time the surface should be visibly wet. Use disinfectants only at the concentrations specified in the label directions.
- Keep disinfectants out of reach of children. Children should not apply disinfectants. Disinfectants can harm children's health if used or stored incorrectly.
- Only use fogging, fumigation, and wide-area or electrostatic spraying to apply EPA-registered products designed and labeled for use in this way. Unless the pesticide product label specifically includes disinfection directions for these application methods, it may not be effective when applied in these ways.
- Do not apply disinfectants to skin, food or cloth face coverings. Do not mix disinfectants with other chemicals.
If an EPA-registered disinfectant from List N is not available, diluted household bleach can be used to disinfect surfaces. Users should closely follow the bleach dilution directions on the CDC's website, including precautions.
Please note that according to the CDC, while “it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,” the virus is thought to spread mainly through close contact between individuals.
Since the U.S. Department of Health Services declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in January 2020, EPA has aggressively worked to ensure that Americans are aware of and have access to effective surface disinfectant products to use against SARS-CoV-2. These actions include:
- In January 2020 EPA activated—for the first time ever—its Emerging Viral Pathogens (EVP) Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides. Under this guidance, EPA allows manufacturers to provide the agency with data, even in advance of an outbreak, to show their products are effective against harder-to-kill viruses.
- In March and again in April 2020, EPA implemented changes to its regulatory processes to allow disinfectant manufacturers to source certain ingredients from alternative suppliers, helping to address supply chain disruptions and ensure the continued availability of disinfectants. Also in March 2020, EPA started expediting EVP claim submissions. Disinfectants with EVP claims are now being reviewed in 1 to 2 weeks instead of several months or more.
- In April, EPA and the CDC released joint guidance (“Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes”) for cleaning and disinfecting spaces where Americans live, work and play.
- In May, EPA expanded expedited review of new products and amendments to existing product labels that require review of new efficacy data.
- In July, EPA announced the first products on its List N that have specifically been tested against SARS-CoV2. While these products were already on List N, they now carry additional weight against the virus that causes COVID-19 based on testing performed by the manufacturer and confirmed by EPA. The total number of products in this category is now 56.
- In July, EPA began to expedite applications to add directions for use with electrostatic sprayers to products intended to kill SARS-CoV-2. Electrostatic spraying has drawn increased interest through the public health emergency because of the need to disinfect large indoor spaces (e.g., schools, offices, businesses) or areas with many surfaces.
- In October, EPA released draft guidance that allows companies for the first time to demonstrate their products have "long-lasting" or "residual" effectiveness against viruses like SARS-CoV-2.