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Revisiting Disinfectant Selection for Use Against SARS-CoV-2

Updated July 31 to reflect additional updates from the EPA regarding List N.

As a follow-up to Richard’s earlier blog post, here’s a short update on the current status of EPA’s List N, Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

The EPA’s emerging viral pathogens guidance for COVID-19 has been in effect for a little over five months. The guidance outlines criteria that disinfectants must meet to enable the EPA to approve their use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. To qualify, disinfectants must demonstrate efficacy against a harder to kill virus such as a large or small non-enveloped virus. The emerging viral pathogen guidance was designed exactly for situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, when the emerging virus causing the disease isn’t immediately available to laboratories to conduct disinfectant microefficacy testing to support label claims. 

However, for a few months now, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been available for testing, and as you’d expect, multiple companies are having their disinfectants tested for efficacy. In July, the EPA announced that fifteen products had become the first to demonstrate efficacy against the virus following testing according to EPA-approved methods. These products can add a SARS-CoV-2 efficacy claim to their federal Master Labels. More will certainly follow. For all products, the efficacy data must still be reviewed by the California Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR), and individual states will need to accept new labeling before the claim can be added to product labels.

What This Means for Disinfectant Selection

Let’s take a look at what this actually means. For several months now, the EPA has provided a list of disinfectants that can be used against this coronavirus. This is List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). The number of products on List N has increased each time the EPA has included a new criterion that a disinfectant can meet to be included. The EPA expects products on List N to kill SARS-CoV-2 because they meet one of four criteria:

  1. The product has an emerging viral pathogens claim, meaning that the products have demonstrated efficacy against a virus that is harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
  2. The product has demonstrated efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
  3. The product has demonstrated efficacy against a harder-to-kill pathogen than SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), specifically norovirus, Mycobacterium boyis | Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
  4. The product has demonstrated efficacy against another type of human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

As of July 28, 2020, there are 468 products on the list. The majority of disinfectants on List N — 308 of them — are included because they have an emerging viral pathogens claim. An additional 102 disinfectants are included because they have an efficacy claim against a human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2. With the availability of SARS-CoV-2 for microefficacy testing, we finally see products — currently 15 — that are included on the list because they have been shown to effectively kill the SARS-CoV-2 following testing according to an EPA-approved method. The remainder of products are effective against human coronavirus or a harder-to-kill pathogen than SARS-CoV-2.

What’s important to note is that EPA considers ALL of the products on List N to be effective and approved for use against SARS-CoV-2, even though only 15 have actually demonstrated efficacy against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in microefficacy tests. 

Why You Should Still Use List N

Given the potential for the COVID-19 pandemic to be long-lasting, it’s understood that List N will continue to be updated and remain as a resource, even as more products are tested against SARS-CoV-2.  The emerging viral pathogens guidance is based on a well-established and thoroughly researched hierarchy of virus susceptibility to disinfectants.  SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus, making it an easy virus to kill.  With the proof of disinfectant efficacy being generated through EPA-approved methods, combined with the results of recent published studies, it’s clear that many household disinfectants as well as disinfectants designed for use in healthcare and other professional settings should be able to kill the virus on hard non-porous surfaces. This supports the rationale behind the EPA’s emerging viral pathogens guidance, and criteria for inclusion on List N.  Those looking for a disinfectant to use against SARS-CoV-2 can, and should, select any of the disinfectants on List N and be reassured that the product they are using will align with EPA and CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting against SARS-CoV-2.

For additional information on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and how to help prevent the spread, visit the CloroxPro SARS-CoV-2 Hub.