EPA Pushes Crackdown On Illegal Coronavirus Disinfectants

By Mike LaSusa
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Law360 (April 23, 2020, 10:10 PM EDT) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that it's asking major online retail platforms like eBay, Facebook and Alibaba to crack down on sales of illegal disinfectant products, the same day the agency announced seizures of such products shipped from abroad.

The EPA said in a news release that it has called on Facebook, eBay, Alibaba, Shopify, Qoo10, JoyBuy.com, Wish.com and banggood.com to help prevent the sale of products that aren't officially approved and might be ineffective against germs like the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

"Earlier this month I met with online retailers and third-party platforms to ask for their help in preventing these impostor products from coming to market," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in the statement. "Today, we are advising eight companies to take action against these dishonest dealers and immediately take these illegal products off of their sites."

EBay Inc. told Law360 on Thursday that it is working to stop the kinds of sellers the EPA is warning about.

"We are making every effort to ensure that anyone who sells on our platform follows local laws and eBay policies," the company said.

Facebook, Alibaba, Shopify, Qoo10 and Wish.com didn't respond on Thursday to requests for comment. JoyBuy.com and banggood.com couldn't be reached.

Also on Thursday, the EPA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the seizure of "more than 7,800 illegal products" coming through international mail facilities at the main airports in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The agencies said the products confiscated in recent weeks have come from Japan and Hong Kong, and include items like "Virus Shut Out," which don't comply with U.S. laws.

The EPA's Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud said it is "critical that people only use EPA-registered disinfectants and follow label directions for proper use."

"EPA will not tolerate companies selling illegal disinfectants and making false or misleading public health claims during this pandemic crisis," Busterud said.

The agency announced in early March that it would speed up the process to approve manufacturers' claims that their existing disinfectants will kill the new coronavirus.

The program allows companies to add "emerging viral pathogens" claims to their already-registered surface disinfectant labels. According to the EPA, companies must describe how their products meet the eligibility criteria for use against one or more categories of viral pathogens and identify the virus or viruses from the existing product labels that the companies are using to support the emerging pathogen claims.

Under the EPA's program, manufacturers must show the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention that their products are effective against viruses harder to kill than the one behind COVID-19. Several products have already been approved, such as Clorox Multi-Surface Cleaner & Bleach and Lysol Clean & Fresh Multi-Surface Cleaner.

According to the EPA, coronaviruses are one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with an appropriate disinfectant used according to the product's directions.

--Additional reporting by Juan Carlos Rodriguez. Editing by Bruce Goldman.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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