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Center for Biocide Chemistries Answers Your Questions About COVID-19

The World Health Organization has formally declared the COVID-19 outbreak a “pandemic.” With more than 100,000 reported cases of coronavirus worldwide, and over 4,200 deaths, many are looking for answers on how best to protect themselves and their families.

The Center for Biocide Chemistries (CBC) recently published a list of over 200 ready-to-use, dilutable, and wipeable biocidal products that are approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as effective at killing viruses like COVID-19. Antimicrobial products on the CBC Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)-Fighting Products List have been tested to stop the spread of pathogens from hard surfaces and have received EPA’s approval that the products are not expected to cause unreasonable adverse effects when used in accordance with their labels. The public and public health officials should feel confident that the products included on CBC’s list are available to help protect people from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

To help improve understanding of these products and steps people can take to make sure their homes and offices are protected, we sat down with Komal K. Jain, Executive Director of the CBC, to answer some of the frequently asked questions about COVID-19:

What type of virus is COVID-19?
Viruses can be generally categorized into three groups by virus structure.1 This affects the effectiveness of disinfectants in killing the viruses.

  • Enveloped viruses are easiest to kill. (An example is Influenza A Virus.)
  • Large, non-enveloped viruses are more difficult to kill. (An example is Rotavirus.)
  • Small, non-enveloped viruses are hardest to kill. (Examples are Rhinovirus and Norovirus.)

Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, meaning they are one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product.

What should you look for in a cleaning product if you’re aiming to prevent the spread of coronavirus?
If you are aiming to help stop the spread of COVID-19, a list of products presumed by EPA to be effective is available from the CBC Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)-Fighting Products List. These products contain antimicrobials that kill many disease-causing viruses and other microbes. They have been tested against hundreds of pathogens, such as norovirus and MERS, and based on those results, EPA expects them to be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. Each of these products on the list have been tested to stop the spread of pathogens from hard surfaces, and the manufacturer states that it is compliant with EPA’s “emerging viral pathogen” guidance for antimicrobial products. The public should feel confident that the products included on CBC’s list are available to help protect themselves from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

How should we use a listed product?
The instructions for use on the product label should be followed. If there are use directions for enveloped viruses, follow those directions. EPA recommends that if the directions for use for viruses/virucidal activity list different contact times or dilutions, use the longest contact time or most concentrated solution [See https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2].

How can a company claim that a specific product should be used effectively during the COVID-19 outbreak?
During an outbreak of a new virus like COVID-19, no products exist on the market that can make claims to kill the virus. This is due to the simple fact that the virus was not available to test, and it can take more than one year to get a viral claim approved by a regulatory agency. For this reason, the United States EPA enacted a ‘hierarchy-based’ policy. This means that if a company’s product has been found to be effective against harder-to-kill viruses, it is likely to kill a virus like COVID-19.

A product that is likely to provide the greatest protection to you from COVID-19 will have claims against at least one non-enveloped virus such as Norovirus, Feline Calicivirus, Poliovirus, Rhinovirus, or Reovirus. This theory is the basis by which EPA has activated its Emerging Viral Pathogens Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides, regulating registrants that claim their products are effective against COVID-19.

While it is best to try to use products that qualified for the emerging viral pathogens claim (proven to kill harder to kill viruses), the U.S Environmental Protection Agency recently stated that if you cannot obtain those products, then use products that claim to kill Human Coronavirus because they “expect” that those products will be effective against SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19).

How do I know that a U.S. company’s claim is legitimate?
Any company marketing hard-surface disinfectant products in the United States for use during the COVID-19 outbreak MUST have an EPA-approved Emerging Pathogen Claim. This claim cannot be found on the commercial label as it is only triggered during an outbreak. However, it can be found on the master label on EPA’s website.

Additionally, EPA is supporting the use of products that state it can disinfect against human coronavirus. This language must appear on the commercial label and master label.

What requirements are necessary in order to have my company’s product listed on the CBC Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)-Fighting Products List?

Tier I Products that Meet EPA’s Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance

Per EPA’s Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides, the following criteria determine if an EPA-registered disinfectant product is eligible to make a claim against COVID-19:

  1. The product is an EPA-registered, hospital/healthcare or broad-spectrum disinfectant with directions for use on hard, porous or non-porous surfaces.
  2. The currently accepted product label (from an EPA-registered product as described above) should have disinfectant efficacy claims against the following viral pathogen groupings:  one large or one small non-enveloped virus.

CBC has not listed any product without first reviewing the product’s Master Label, which indicates EPA’s prior approval of the emerging pathogens qualification. 

A Master Label must be provided to the CBC in order for the product to be included on the CBC Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)-Fighting Products List.

Tier II Products that Disinfect Against Human Coronavirus

As of March 13, EPA is supporting the use of products that have demonstrated efficacy against another human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2 on its List N, Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. In other words, the product has not proven that it can kill harder to kill viruses than SARS-CoV-2, which would be a Tier I product, but it can kill viruses like SARS-CoV-2. CBC therefore has amended its list to include a Tier II listing of products that state that they can disinfect human coronavirus.

EPA recommendation is that only if a product with an emerging viral pathogen claim is not available, use a product with a human coronavirus claim.

What are steps that an average American can take to make sure their homes/offices are disinfected, sanitized, etc., to protect from COVID-19?
Antimicrobials, also known as biocides, prevent the growth and spread of unwanted microbes. We rely on a class of antimicrobial products known as disinfectants to kill many disease-causing viruses, like COVID-19.

First, it is critical that people understand the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing – there are distinct differences.2 “Cleaning” removes dirt and impurities from surfaces or objects, but it does not kill germs. “Sanitizing” lowers the number of germs on a surface or object by reducing the germs to levels considered safe by public health standards or requirements. “Disinfecting” kills germs by using antimicrobials directly on surfaces and objects.

Additional tips for keeping healthy include:

  • Use antimicrobials on highly touched surfaces in your home. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cleaning visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best-practice measure for prevention of COVID-19. CDC recommends a thorough disinfection of sinks, toilets, doorknobs, and other hard surfaces that people frequently touch.  Also, keep in mind that germs and bacteria can hide in many places. Use a disinfectant on your countertops, sinks, cabinets, appliance surfaces, and all handles or drawer pulls. Finally, everyone should wash their hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Use antimicrobials on highly touched surfaces in your office. No one wants to make a coworker ill, so use of antimicrobial products will disinfect equipment like computer keyboards, staplers, and desks.
  • Use antimicrobials in highly populated areas. Use antimicrobials to disinfect armrests, seats, and other places while traveling on airplanes, trains and automobiles. One of the fastest ways to spread viruses or bacterial infections is to be trapped in close quarters with strangers.

You can also visit www.GoodChemistryLivesHere.com for more information about antimicrobials, and their uses.

For more answers to frequently asked questions regarding CBC’s list of COVID-19 fighting products, click here.


1E.H. Spaulding Chemical disinfection and antisepsis in the hospital; J Hosp Res, 9 (1957), pp. 5-31.
2See e.g., https://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/cleaning.htm.

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