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EPA Triggers Rapid Response to Curb Spread of Coronavirus (2)

Jan. 29, 2020, 5:59 PMUpdated: Jan. 29, 2020, 10:34 PM

Emergency guidance from the EPA could help people know which disinfectants can curb the deadly new coronavirus.

The coronavirus outbreak, which was first reported in 2019 in Wuhan, China, has now triggered emergency guidance under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Emerging Pathogens Policy for Antimicrobial Pesticides.

Under the policy, manufacturers whose EPA-registered products meet certain criteria are permitted to use emerging pathogen language in a number of types of communications, including product labels.

This is the first time EPA has activated the guidance since it was finalized in 2016.

So-called “emerging pathogens” are viruses that are of critical public health concern. According to health experts, some disinfectants have been successful at limiting the spread of these viruses.

“We determined that many of our Clorox Healthcare, CloroxPro and retail products would meet the eligibility criteria,” said Naomi Greer, a spokeswoman for the Clorox Co.

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the EPA evaluates the efficacy of antimicrobial products intended to control pathogens that can harm public health.

According to Greer, a product is eligible and considered effective against coronavirus “if the disinfectant has at least one or more EPA-approved claims against a small or large non-enveloped virus on the Master Label,” she said. A “non-enveloped” virus is one that never acquires the membrane coating typical of other viruses.

Surface Cleaner Claims

Companies aren’t allowed to make marketing claims that a product is effective against viruses or pathogens unless regulators have reviewed data to support the claim.

The Food and Drug Administration recently told Gojo Industries Inc., the maker of Purell hand sanitizer, that it had to stop making unfounded claims that its products prevent and help stop virus spread.

According to Chinese officials, the death toll from coronavirus has exceeded 130, with the total number of confirmed cases exceeding 6,000 and thousands more suspected.

This already makes the virus comparable to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which affected some 8,000 people in 2003. The vast majority of coronavirus cases have been in China, but the disease has spread to other countries.

The emergency guidance outlines a voluntary, two-stage process involving product label amendments and modified terms of registration that apply only to emerging viruses.

Actions described by this guidance may be taken for eligible products only after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified an emerging pathogen and recommended environmental surface disinfection to help control its spread.

(Updated with new information from EPA in fourth paragraph and FDA warning to maker of Purell in 10th paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Allington in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Renee Schoof at; Anna Yukhananov at