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EPA Recalls Wipes It Distributed, But Never Approved for Virus

July 10, 2020, 9:01 PM

The EPA has stopped giving out certain disinfectant wipes it purchased for its employees because they’re not on the agency’s own list of some 400 approved products.

Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency are now studying the wipes for their effectiveness, as well as whether the manufacturer has applied to be on the EPA’s own List N, according to an agency source who declined to be identified because employees were still being informed of the news.

List N is a continually updated registry of more than 400 products that meet the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

The EPA source declined to identify the manufacturer or brand name of the wipes. The source also declined to estimate how much the EPA had spent purchasing the products.

The source also said the agency’s scientists believe the wipes will be effective against SARS-CoV-2 because they have been proven to be effective against tuberculosis and other viruses. The source said the EPA is looking into whether the manufacturer of the wipes has applied to be on List N, as required.

Wipes Placed in Common EPA Areas

The agency pulled the wipes, which were placed in common areas such as pantries and reception rooms in EPA offices across the nation, “out of an abundance of caution,” the source said.

If the wipes don’t qualify for List N, the supplier has agreed to let the EPA return unopened products, the source said. In the meantime, the EPA is continuing to clean its offices in accordance with procedures outlined by the General Services Administration, and is also providing hand sanitizer to staffers.

EPA offices are in various stages of reopening. The agency isn’t requiring any staff to return to offices yet, but in some places employees have the option to do so. The EPA’s return-to-work plans have been vigorously opposed by many agency employees, who insist there’s no data to suggest it’s safe to commute or go back to the office.

Employees are being asked to self-assess themselves before they leave their homes, and must stay home if they have symptoms such as a high temperature, a cough or shortness of breath, muscle pain, a headache, or a new loss of taste or smell, according to an internal slideshow dated Friday from the EPA Office of Mission Support. The slideshow was obtained by Bloomberg Law.

On July 13, the EPA will enter into one week of bargaining with the American Federation of Government Employees, its biggest union, to discuss the agency’s developing plans to reopen its offices.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Lee in Washington at stephenlee@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Renee Schoof at rschoof@bloombergindustry.com; Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergindustry.com

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