COVID-19 Legal Update: Cleaning and Disinfection Protocols for Affected Work Spaces


Practice Areas

Sean M. Sullivan and Emily S. Sherlock
Robinson Bradshaw Publication
April 15, 2020

Unsubstantiated claims regarding a variety of cleaning and "disinfection" procedures are flooding the market from a surprising number of sources. Here are a few helpful tips for evaluating vendor proposals:

CDC Guidance

The CDC has published guidance for cleaning and disinfecting most businesses and public spaces. The guidance recommends a two-step process of cleaning all potentially affected surfaces, followed by applying an EPA-approved disinfectant for that type of surface or a 0.1% solution of bleach in water. Note that cleaning operations must comply with OSHA requirements for hazard communication and blood-borne pathogens.

EPA-Approved Disinfectants

Ask for the name and registration number of the disinfectant product the vendor proposes to use. EPA has developed a web-based lookup tool to confirm the product is approved for use against the COVID-19 virus. You should confirm the disinfectant is registered and that it is approved for use on the specific surface type (hard versus soft or porous surfaces, for example).

Note: Many disinfectants are listed for "emerging viral pathogen claims." This means that the disinfectant is effective on viruses that are harder to kill than COVID-19 and is presumed to be effective on COVID-19 as well.

Other Disinfection Procedures

A number of vendors are offering to use machines producing things like ozone or ultraviolet radiation to kill the virus. In response, Robinson Bradshaw attorney Sean Sullivan contacted EPA to discuss concerns over this practice. The agency stated these types of devices are "misbranded" if their labeling or advertising contains any claims specific to the COVID-19 virus. An exception is if the vendor has performed studies demonstrating the device is effective at killing the COVID-19 virus on the specific type of surface at issue. Ask for the reports.

Note: Details are important here. For example, the FDA has approved the use of ozone gas to disinfect poultry in processing plants, and there are published studies supporting that use. EPA believes those studies are insufficient to demonstrate ozone gas is effective against COVID-19 on any surface. In addition, EPA has questioned whether ozone gas can kill microbes on any porous surfaces – even at high concentrations.

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