EPA says surfaces with copper alloys can fight COVID-19

The decision allows products with antimicrobial copper alloys to be marketed with the virus-killing claim

The EPA polices disinfectant claims under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The EPA polices disinfectant claims under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 10, 2021 at 5:49pm

Special copper doorknobs and handrails can help fight the coronavirus, according to the EPA.

The agency announced a move Wednesday that allows products with antimicrobial copper alloys to be marketed with that virus-killing claim — the first product to be registered with such residual properties for nationwide use.

“Providing Americans with new tools and information to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 is one of EPA’s top priorities,” Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff said in a news release. “Today’s action marks another step forward in EPA’s efforts to listen to the science and provide effective tools to help protect human health.”

[Water treatment system in Florida hacked, lye levels increased]

The EPA polices disinfectant claims under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, an area of authority that’s received more attention as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Over the past year, the agency has moved to stop the sale of products making unfounded or misleading claims about their effectiveness in killing the virus.

The agency also released last March an initial list of wipes, sprays and other products viewed as effective against the coronavirus.

That list has since grown to more than 500 products.

Wednesday’s action adds anti-viral claims to the product registration for alloys that are at least 95.6 percent copper.

That determination was based on testing supported by the Copper Development Association that showed high-percentage copper alloy products continuously kill viruses that come into contact with them. The viruses used in the testing are more difficult to kill than the one that causes COVID-19.

“Based on testing against harder-to-kill viruses, EPA expects these products to eliminate 99.9 percent of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, within two hours,” according to the release.

A caveat

The agency cautioned that the main pathway for transmitting the virus remains close person-to-person contact rather than surface transfers. That means disinfectants are not a replacement for wearing masks and social distancing.

The copper announcement is the latest example of the agency signing off on a new anti-virus use for an existing product.

The EPA announced on Jan. 15, for example, that it had approved an emergency exemption request for the use of an airborne antiviral product known as Grignard Pure. That exemption was granted to Georgia and Tennessee state governments for indoor spaces where social distancing is difficult.

The active ingredient in Grignard Pure is Triethylene glycol, commonly used in fog machines. The agency concluded it can kill 98 percent of airborne SARS-CoV-2.