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EPA Should Develop Coronavirus Sampling Methods, Advisers Say

May 20, 2020, 7:29 PM

The EPA should use its expertise to find ways to sample coronavirus in the environment, whether in indoor air, subway cars, or office settings, the agency’s Science Advisory Board said Wednesday.

In the past month, the Environmental Protection Agency has embarked on multiple research projects to improve coronavirus testing, detection, and disinfectants. But its scientific advisers say the agency’s top priority should be sampling protocols.

“The EPA is in a strong position to establish protocols that could be used by different agencies throughout the country,” the board’s coronavirus panel wrote in its draft letter to Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The full board discussed minor changes to the letter in a Wednesday teleconference.

The board and the agency agree on a “continuing need for greater understanding” of the coronavirus, David Dunlap, deputy assistant administrator for science policy in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, said during the teleconference.

Other important parts of EPA’s research efforts include identifying the amount of virus particles needed to infect a person, techniques to determine whether—and how long—the virus lives on various surfaces. They also include how to reduce a person’s exposure to the virus through indoor air, among other priorities, the panel wrote.

‘Science Takes Time’

The EPA already has identified hundreds of products, including disinfectant wipes and sprays, that are effective against the virus in the short term.

The agency also should look into disinfectants for difficult-to-clean areas, such as car interiors or furniture, and products that have long-term effectiveness, for use in New York City’s subways and other public transit, the board advised.

The agency hasn’t created time lines to complete its coronavirus research, an agency spokeswoman said Monday.

“NYC Transit, as well as other mass transit agencies, are helping the researchers understand the cleaning and disinfection challenges they face,” the spokeswoman said in an email Friday.

“Science takes time, but our researchers are building on a foundation of work that has already been developed for other pathogens, bacteria, and viruses. They are working on applied research that can help make decisions to impact public health as soon as possible,” she said Friday.

Members of the Science Advisory Board represent academia, industry, and states, and are appointed by the agency’s administrator. They advise the the agency and its leadership in scientific matters related to potential carcinogens, among other issues.

The board also reviews the quality of the scientific and technical information the agency uses to support regulations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sylvia Carignan in Washington at scarignan@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com

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