Tell EPA to Remove Risky Disinfectants from Its Recommended List
Hazardous disinfectants are not necessary for protection against COVID-19, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is agreeing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seems to now agree, but has not changed it recommendations and listing for the public. Since last March, EPA has recommended disinfectants on List N for protecting against exposure to surfaces that would spread the virus causing COVID-19. Beyond Pesticides has evaluated the disinfectants, categorizing them as materials to seek out or to avoid. More recently, we evaluated the available evidence and recommended that schools and other institutions concentrate on providing adequate ventilation and protection from airborne virus.
EPA's List N contains products containing toxic chemicals such as chlorine bleach, peroxyacetic acid, alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides, didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride, and other “quats,” sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione, and hydrochloric acid. In addition to their outright toxicity, some of these can also trigger asthma attacks. Now, EPA has recognized this evidence and offered revised recommendations, stressing the need to avoid airborne transmission and stating in an infographic that the risk of contracting disease by touching contaminated surfaces is low and that disinfectants can trigger an asthma attack. However, List N remains as a resource for avoiding COVID-19. This confusion and misrepresentation of safety must stop.
As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 5,
People can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 through contact with surfaces. However, based on available epidemiological data and studies of environmental transmission factors, surface transmission is not the main route by which SARS-CoV-2 spreads, and the risk is considered to be low. The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus. In most situations, cleaning surfaces using soap or detergent, and not disinfecting, is enough to reduce risk. Disinfection is recommended in indoor community settings where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours. The risk of fomite transmission can be reduced by wearing masks consistently and correctly, practicing hand hygiene, cleaning, and taking other measures to maintain healthy facilities.
Letter to EPA
I am writing to ask you to revise your advice on disinfectants based on the revised assessment by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the risk of COVID-19 from surface contamination (fomites) compared to respiratory exposure. I applaud EPA’s new infographic, which de-emphasizes the use of disinfectants, identifying hazards of disinfectants and the efficacy of cleaning with soap and water.
However, List N, which lists 529 products, many of which present respiratory hazards without distinguishing them from less hazardous products, is still the list to which websites and agencies refer. In view of the statements in the infographic—"In most situations, cleaning is enough to reduce risk,” and “Disinfectants can trigger an asthma attack”—EPA must evaluate substances on List N and remove the hazardous products or identify their hazards for those who consult the list.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this.