EPA provides critical information about safe disinfectant use

This original announcement was published by the EPA on April 23, 2020. Click here for more.


Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is continuing its efforts to provide critical information on surface disinfectant products that can be used to protect the health of all Americans throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency. In support of these efforts, EPA now has nearly 400 products that have qualified to be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This week the agency also published an overview of its actions and resources related to disinfection against the novel coronavirus.

“EPA is dedicated to its mission of protecting human health and we want all Americans to have access to effective and approved surface disinfectant products,” said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We also want everyone follow the directions on the product so that we can safely use registered disinfectants and provide critical protection to our families.”

When using an EPA-registered surface disinfectant, always follow the product’s directions and remember:

  • Never apply the product to yourself or others. Do not ingest disinfectant products. This includes never applying any product on List N (the agency’s list of disinfectants to use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19) directly to food.
  • Never mix products unless specified in the use directions. Certain combinations of chemicals will create highly toxic acids or gases.
  • Wash the surface with soap and water before applying disinfectant products if the label mentions pre-cleaning.
  • Follow the contact time listed for your product on List N. This is the amount of time the surface must remain visibly wet to ensure efficacy against the virus. It can sometimes be several minutes.
  • Wash your hands after using a disinfectant. This will minimize your exposure to the chemicals in the disinfectant and the pathogen you are trying to kill.

EPA provides additional information on disinfectant safety messages on its twitter feeds, @EPA and @ChemSafety. These channels will be updated with new materials throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

EPA is also continuing to add additional chemicals to its list of common inert ingredients. These actions are intended to help address supply chain issues for EPA-registered disinfectants and other pesticides. It allows manufacturers of already-registered EPA products to change the source of listed inert ingredients.

To learn more about disinfectant safety, see this guide from our partner, the National Pesticide Information Center, about using disinfectants to control COVID-19: http://npic.orst.edu/ingred/ptype/amicrob/covid19.html

EPA Continues to Add New Surface Disinfectant Products to Combat COVID-19

This original announcement was published by the EPA on April 3, 2020 and can be accessed here


WASHINGTON (April 2, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is continuing its commitment to increasing the availability of surface disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 (List N) now contains over 360 products and has enhanced functionality to allow users to sort these products by surface type and use site. EPA is also continuing to expedite the review process for new disinfectants.

Previously, all products on List N had to have either an EPA emerging viral pathogen claim or have demonstrated efficacy against another human coronavirus. Now, List N also includes products on EPA’s List G: Products effective against norovirus and List L: Products effecting against the Ebola virus as these products also meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2 .

In addition, EPA has updated List N to include the types of surfaces products can be used on (e.g., hard or soft) and use sites (e.g., hospital, institutional or residential). Products that can be applied via fogging are now noted in the formulation column. This additional information will empower the public to choose products that are appropriate for their specific circumstances.

To help the public better understand List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 , EPA has updated the content on List N and the Frequently Asked Questions about disinfectants related to coronavirus. The FAQ update provides new information on pesticide safety, enforcement, and pesticide devices. It also includes enhanced explanations of why List N products are qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2 and how these products can be used most effectively.

EPA has continued to adapt its processes to ensure the supply of disinfectants keeps pace with demand. EPA recently announced additional flexibility that allows manufacturers of already-registered EPA disinfectants to obtain certain active and inactive (i.e., inert) ingredients from any source of suppliers without checking with the Agency first. Today, EPA added 48 additional chemicals to its list of commodity inert ingredients . This regulatory flexibility aims to help ease the production and availability of EPA-registered disinfectants.

EPA also is expediting all requests for company numbers and establishment numbers to enable new pesticide-producing establishments to come online as quickly as possible.

For more information on EPA’s efforts to address the novel coronavirus, visit: www.epa.gov/coronavirus.

Farms Could See Shortage of Protective Gear Amid Covid-19 Needs

This original article was published by Bloomberg Law on March 26, 2020 and can be accessed here.

Farmworkers are bracing for potential shortages of protective equipment used to apply pesticides as supplies are diverted to emergency health care needs in response to the coronavirus.

When applying chemicals to fields and orchards, pesticide applicators use much the same personal protective equipment (PPE) as health care workers: protective suits, gloves, and single-use N95 respirators.

While many farmers and spraying contractors report having enough supplies for the spring growing season, they worry that shortages today could cut availability of the gear later in the year.

Feeling the Pinch

Carl Atwell, president of Gempler’s, a Wisconsin-based supplier of agriculture and landscaping PPE, said orders for disposable respirators and masks placed today wouldn’t arrive until June. “And that’s just an estimate,” he said.

Atwell said he’s also seeing shortages of chemical-resistant gloves, Tyvek suits, goggles, and respirator masks for use on farms.

“All of our major suppliers is being impacted,” he said, “Whether it’s Dupont, 3M, Honeywell—they’re all being told by the government to divert supply to hospitals first.”

This week both Honeywell International Inc. and 3M Co. announced plans to ramp up production of N95 masks to meet the critical needs of health care workers and emergency responders. 3M said it doubled its global output of masks and respirators to a rate of nearly 100 million per month—more than 90% of which are designated for health care workers.

Reusing Gloves

For many North American farmers, the timing of the coronavirus pandemic came after they had purchased crop protection chemicals and gear for the spring season.

“Thankfully, we’re were already pretty well stocked in terms of PPE for our mixers and handlers,” said Jeff Bunting, crop protection division manager for Growmark, an Illinois-based company that handles pesticide application contracts for farmers.

But the situation could be different in a few months if orders are still backed up as farmers try to restock for late-season spraying, or for next year, Bunting said.

Tanette Feddick of Feddick Distributors, a Minnesota-based wholesale agricultural supplier, said her business sold 800 cases of dust masks in a week. It usually takes six months to sell that many, she said.

“At this point, all we can do is take people’s name, and put them on a list,” she said.

Some pesticide contracting companies are taking steps to try to extend the life of the gear they have in case supplies remain low.

“We can wash and reuse nitrile gloves, and try to conserve dust masks as much as possible,” said Joe Sinclair, president of Quality Ag Service, a full-service farm retailer and pesticide contractor.

‘Already a Big Problem’

Pesticides classified as “restricted use” can only be applied by certified applicators, and each pesticide product label lists PPE requirements. That label is a legal document designed to ensure pesticides are safely applied and the user is adequately protected.

Without proper protective clothing farmworkers can experience skin irritation, respiratory problems, or organ damage, and pregnant workers could have complications, said Iris Figueroa, a staff attorney with Farmworker Justice, a Washington, D.C., based advocacy group.

“This issue of workers being exposed to toxic chemicals was already a big problem before the pandemic, so I can only image what will happen now,” said Figueroa.

Of highest concern “given the current situation” of a virus that attacks the lungs, is respiratory protection needed for people working with fumigant pesticides or volatile chemicals, such as anhydrous ammonia fertilizer, she said.

Testing Center Closures

Because of coronavirus, many state agriculture departments are shutting down in-person testing centers, which manage certification programs for pesticide applicators.

Some states are able to offer certification courses online. And executive orders in states including Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, Iowa, and Illinois, have extended the expiration dates for pesticide applicator licenses into 2021.

However, Growmark’s Bunting says that won’t address the issue of certifying new employees to apply pesticides, if and when they’re needed.

“You know we don’t have a lot of applicators that are licensed to apply restricted-used products,” he said. “If they get sick and we lose those people, that could be big problem for a farmers, and companies like ours.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Allington in Washington at aallington@bloombergenvironment.com

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

EPA Announces New Tool for Soybean Growers to Combat Weeds

This original announcement was published by the EPA on March 30, 2020 and can be accessed here.

WASHINGTON (MARCH 30, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the registration of the use of isoxaflutole on genetically engineered soybeans, providing soybean farmers with a new tool they can use to control weeds that have become resistant to many other herbicides.

“We’ve heard from farmers across the country about the importance of having new means available to combat economically-damaging weeds,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Alexandra Dapolito Dunn. “We listened and believe this action balances the need to provide growers with the products necessary to continue to provide Americans with a safe and abundant food supply while ensuring our country’s endangered species are protected.”

“Safe and effective weed management is a constant challenge that farmers face,” said American Soybean Association President and soybean grower from Worthington, Minnesota, Bill Gordon. “EPA’s registration of Isoxaflutole will provide soybean growers with an important new tool to combat damaging weeds and help better control emerging herbicide-resistance issues. The American Soybean Association appreciates the diligence by EPA to provide farmers access to this new tool with the necessary guidance for using it safely to protect people, our wildlife, and the environment.”

EPA reviewed relevant data and conducted detailed human health and ecological assessments in deciding to register the use of isoxaflutole on soybeans genetically engineered to resist the herbicidal effects of isoxaflutole. In addition to the risk assessments, EPA also requested public comment on the proposed registration decision. Based on this analysis and careful consideration of public input, EPA concluded that the application of isoxaflutole on genetically engineered soybeans with certain use conditions could be done in an environmentally-protective manner in certain parts of the country.

Isoxaflutole is already registered by EPA for use on corn in 33 states. Like this existing use, the new registered use of isoxaflutole on genetically engineered soybeans is classified as a restricted-use pesticide, meaning that applicators must receive special training in order to use it. The training will emphasize ways applicators will protect ground and surface water and non-target plants.

The new use on genetically engineered soybeans would be limited to specific counties in 25 states. EPA is limiting use to these specific counties to protect endangered or threatened species from exposure. EPA is also including additional use restrictions, such as not allowing aerial and irrigation system applications.

The registration is limited to five years during which EPA will evaluate any potential weed resistance issues that may result. As part of the terms and conditions of the registration, the registrant must provide an herbicide-resistance management plan and submit annual reports to EPA.

More information, including the final registration decision, can be found on: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0398.

EPA Takes Action to Assure Availability of Disinfectant Products for Use Against the Novel Coronavirus

This original announcement was published by the EPA on March 31, 2020 and can be accessed here.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking further action to help ease the production and availability of EPA-registered disinfectants. EPA will temporarily allow manufacturers of certain already-registered EPA disinfectants to obtain certain active ingredients from any source of suppliers without checking with the agency first. This only applies to products on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. This action comes after last week’s announcement of EPA’s similar action on certain inert ingredients.

“It is critical that the supply of EPA-registered disinfectants keep up with the demand for these products,” said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “By taking this action, EPA is better protecting public health by assuring the availability of surface disinfectants to use against the novel coronavirus.”

“We appreciate EPA’s continued partnership as we all work together to keep the supply chains for cleaning products running efficiently, particularly for the disinfectants that hospitals, manufacturers and consumers need to protect against the spread of coronavirus,” said Bryan Zumwalt, Executive Vice President for Public Affairs, Consumer Brands Association.

“We commend the EPA for acting quickly to remove regulatory barriers during these unprecedented times,” said Steve Caldeira, President & CEO of the Household & Commercial Products Association. “The EPA’s continued engagement with disinfectant manufacturers has been critically important as we all work together to protect the public health.”

EPA usually requires disinfectant manufacturers to first apply for and receive EPA approval prior to making a change in the source of the active ingredient. Under this amendment, manufacturers can source certain active ingredients from alternative suppliers, inform EPA, and immediately start production, provided that the resulting formulation is chemically similar to the current formulation. This will help alleviate reports of supply chain disruptions by pesticide registrants who manufacture disinfectant products on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2.

EPA will assess the continued need for and scope of this temporary amendment on a regular basis and will update it if EPA determines modifications are necessary.

The eligible active ingredients are:

  • Citric Acid
  • Ethanol
  • Glycolic Acid
  • Hydrochloric Acid
  • Hypochlorous Acid
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • L-Lactic Acid
  • Sodium Hypochlorite

Pesticides, including disinfectants, contain both active and inactive (or inert) ingredients. Active ingredients prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate a pest, in this case SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. All other ingredients are called inert ingredients by federal law. They are important for product performance and usability.

Read the temporary amendment at: www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/prn-98-10-notifications-non-notifications-and-minor-formulation-amendments

For EPA information on COVID-19: www.epa.gov/coronavirus.