On January 29, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has activated its Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides (Guidance) in response to the discovery of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses cause numerous illnesses, from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). First identified in Wuhan, China, the 2019-nCoV coronavirus is a new strain that had not been previously seen in humans.
EPA developed its Guidance in 2016 to address emerging pathogens. Under this Guidance, EPA provides pesticide registrants with a voluntary “two-stage process to enable use of certain EPA-registered disinfectant products against emerging viral pathogens not identified on the product label.” These pathogens may not be identified on a label because the occurrence of emerging viral pathogens is less common and predictable than established pathogens and because the pathogens are often unavailable commercially and standard methods for laboratory testing may not exist. EPA’s intent is for the Guidance to “expedite the process for registrants to provide useful information to the public” regarding products that may be effective against emerging viral pathogens associated with certain human or animal disease outbreaks. Registrants with a pre-qualified emerging viral pathogen designation can include an efficacy statement in technical literature distributed to health care facilities, physicians, nurses, public health officials, non-label-related websites, consumer information services, and social media sites. Additional information on the Guidance is available here and here.
EPA will likely work closely with registrants as they take steps to use these procedures to make claims related to coronavirus. EPA notes that coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, meaning they are one of the easiest to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product, and thus using such products could help to limit the spread of these viruses. Registrants that do not meet the criteria set forth in this Guidance yet make claims related to the coronavirus could face enforcement action for selling or distributing misbranded pesticides. EPA states that it is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify and address 2019-nCoV in a timely manner and will continue to monitor developments closely.