EPA eases rules on chemical makeup of disinfectants

By Ariana Figueroa | 04/14/2020 03:43 PM EDT

A spray bottle with disinfectant.

A spray bottle with disinfectant. Marco Verch/Flickr

EPA announced today that it will allow manufacturers to change active ingredients used in surface disinfectants without waiting for the agency’s approval, due to an increased shortage of some chemicals.

The agency said that registrants still have to notify EPA of the ingredient change but will temporarily be allowed to move forward with producing more disinfectants in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

"EPA recognizes the important role the agency plays in protecting public health and the environment and ensuring that Americans continue to have access to effective and approved disinfectants that can help combat the spread of COVID-19," Alexandra Dunn,
EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention,
said in a statement.

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"The flexibilities that we are providing in today’s temporary policy change will help ensure Americans have access to the products they need to protect their families during this public health emergency," she added.

It can take 90 days or more for a manufacturer of a disinfectant, which is registered as a pesticide, to get approval from EPA. The company must test and submit data to EPA showing the pesticide meets the agency’s health and safety standards. Once EPA approves the pesticide, then a seller is allowed to put the product on the market.

EPA previously made a similar decision at the end of March to temporarily allow manufacturers of disinfectants already registered with the agency to acquire chemical ingredients from "any source of suppliers without checking with the agency first." Those active ingredients included ethanol, glycolic acid and hydrochloric acid.

Manufacturers have felt a strain on their supply chain as demand for disinfectant wipes and sprays surges, and they are scrambling to find the chemicals needed to make those products (Greenwire, April 8).

When EPA decides to end the temporary policy, it will give manufacturers a seven-day notice.

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