EPA Issues COVID-19 Advisory About False & Misleading Disinfectant Claims

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appears to be acting responsibly in connection with pesticidal products that falsely claim to kill or prevent the spread of coronavirus on inanimate surfaces such as countertops, bathroom fixtures, and door handles.

EPA—which regulates the labeling, sale, and use of surface disinfectants— recently announced that it has been “receiving a steady stream of tips/complaints concerning potentially false and misleading claims” regarding the ability of particular cleaning products to kill coronavirus. According to EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, the agency “is working with e-commerce platforms to remove/prohibit these fraudulent and/or otherwise inefficacious products from the marketplace.” EPA “is coordinating with the Department of Justice and other federal partners to bring the full force of the law against those selling or otherwise distributing violative products.”

Disinfectants, professional pest control products, agricultural insecticides and herbicides, and wood preservatives are among the types of pesticides that EPA comprehensively regulates under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). That statute makes it unlawful to sell or distribute a pesticidal product or device that makes false and misleading claims, including about their ability to control public health-related pathogens on inanimate surfaces. FIFRA requires that antimicrobial pesticide products such as surface disinfectants be granted a registration by EPA following submission and review of rigorous safety and efficacy studies. Registered disinfectants must be distributed with EPA-approved, nationally uniform product labeling that contains necessary warnings, precautionary measures, and directions for use. It is unlawful to makes promotional claims for a registered pesticide that substantially differ from its labeling.

EPA “will not register a product claiming to be effective against coronavirus until it has determined that the product will not pose an unreasonable risk and it will be effective when used according to the label directions.” The agency maintains, and makes available to the public, a list of such registered products, List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS–CoV–2 (COVID–19). Importantly, “while surface disinfectant products on List N have not been tested specifically against coronavirus, EPA expects them to kill the virus because they demonstrate efficacy against a harder-to-kill virus or another human coronavirus similar to the one causing COVID-19.”

EPA advises consumers and health care providers to ensure that the EPA registration number on the label of a surface disinfectant product is included on List N rather than merely assuming that it will be effective against coronavirus.

Capital Appellate Advocacy PLLC represents and advises pesticide producers and users, and their trade associations, on a broad range of pesticide-related litigation, enforcement, and regulatory matters.

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