EPA takes action to protect public from coronavirus protection scam

EPA Region 2 (N.J., N.Y., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and eight Native-American nations) has issued 29 advisory letter and eight notices of warning to entities operating in New York and New Jersey to address pesticide products and devices that were found to be marketed with unsubstantiated claims of efficacy against the novel coronavirus (the cause of COVID-19) and other pathogens. These advisory letters were sent to a variety of businesses, including individual online sellers and large national companies. Products that are designed specifically to sanitize, disinfect or sterilize surfaces are considered pesticides, and they are regulated by EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

The EPA regional office has also prevented 52 imports of illegal pesticide products into New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico by issuing notices of refusal of admission to stop illegal disinfectants and pesticide devices from entering the country.

“Unregistered disinfectants put consumers at risk. Whether these products are being sold to make a quick buck or are being sold out of ignorance, EPA will not allow the public to be endangered by companies taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation and selling ineffective products,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “Disinfectants and other pesticide products that are not properly tested and registered can pose a serious risk to public health. EPA is working with public and private partners to ensure that pesticide products imported into, and sold in, the U.S. are safe and effective.”

There has been an increase in the production of unregistered, misbranded and unproven pesticides and pesticide devices claiming to reduce or eliminate SARS-CoV-2 being offered for sale online. A pesticidal device is an instrument or other machine, including those using UV or UVC light, that is used to destroy, repel, trap or mitigate any pests, including bacteria and viruses. All products making pesticidal claims must be registered with EPA. The agency has a frequently updated list that now contains about 500 products shown to be effective against SAR-Cov-2, including some products specifically tested against the COVID-19 virus.

EPA said, “Consumers should beware of imposter disinfectant products that are being marketed online with potentially dangerous claims of protection against the novel coronavirus. EPA is working with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to bring the full force of the law against those selling fraudulent or unregistered products.

“If you are importing or selling unregistered pesticides to the public, we will investigate and hold you accountable,” Lopez said. “In EPA Region 2 alone, we are currently investigating over 80 tips on potentially unregistered and misbranded pesticides for sale online.”

EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidance to help facility operators and families properly clean and disinfect spaces. The guidance provides step-by-step instructions for public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools and homes. EPA has compiled a list of disinfectant products, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates and wipes, that can be used against COVID-19. When using these products, always follow the directions and safety information on the label. A disinfectant product’s safety and effectiveness may change based on how it is used.

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