Sales have risen 10-fold for some Ecolab disinfectants that neutralize the novel coronavirus causing a worldwide pandemic.
St. Paul, Minn.-based Ecolab already has 13 separate products on a list that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says can control SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. Application times for effective treatment on hard surfaces range from one to 10 minutes.
“We have several hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants that can be used against the novel coronavirus,” spokesman Roman Blahoski said. “Demand for these products has increased three to 10 times over normal volumes, both in the U.S. and globally, and our manufacturing plants throughout the world are running at full capacity to help meet customer needs.”
Along with Ecolab, St. Paul-based 3M also has products that meet the criteria of the EPA’s Emerging Pathogen Policy specific to COVID-19, said spokeswoman Jennifer Ehrlich.
“In response to COVID-19, 3M has increased production at manufacturing facilities around the world, including those that make disinfecting products to help meet demand,” she said.
3M has yet to seek permission to relabel its products. But the company has a web page dedicated to products it says meet the EPA standard for controlling COVID-19.
“As we learn more about COVID-19 and official test methods and claims are made available, we will pursue applicable label changes,” Ehrlich said.
Demand for disinfectants to clean surfaces from homes to hospitals and buses to businesses has grown large enough that EPA recently allowed companies to quickly relabel disinfectants with something called an “emerging viral pathogen claim” if research suggests that those companies’ brands can neutralize SARS-CoV2 and avoid COVID-19.
The latest EPA list of presumptive SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 killers emerged last week. It included nearly 300 disinfectants, EPA said, including 40 new ones fast-tracked through a novel regulatory review process.
The list came as EPA chief Andrew Wheeler held a series of conference calls with disinfectant makers.
In a statement released by EPA, Steve Caldeira, CEO of the Household and Commercial Products Association, encouraged people and businesses “to check [disinfectants] against EPA’s list by finding the registration number on the product label. Read the label, follow the directions and pay attention to how long the product should stay on the surface you’re cleaning.”
More products are in the pipeline. The EPA is working to expedite about 70 requests from businesses to update labels on products, a spokesperson said.
The process for proving a disinfectant’s ability to control coronavirus is somewhat indirect because SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 are new. The EPA relies on the assumption that products which can kill viral strains stronger than the one causing the current pandemic will also control weaker strains.
“While disinfectant products on this list have not been tested specifically against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, they are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 because they have been tested and proven effective on either a harder-to-kill virus or against another human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2,” the EPA said.
Craig Hedberg, a professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, said the approach is reasonable.
Tests show the virus causing the pandemic “can persist on hard surfaces for days,” Hedberg said. Getting access to and permission to test this unique virus “creates hurdles that delay testing,” he added. “In terms of providing a wider range of products, using surrogates that are well characterized and at least as hearty as the coronavirus is a way to move forward.”
While the number of disinfectants to deal with the pandemic swells, Hedberg, the public health professor, stressed that airborne molecules remain the major source of infection.
“A broad range of disinfectants is good backup protection,” he said. “But respiration if the main way of transmitting coronavirus.”
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