PESTICIDE LAW AND POLICY BLOG

EPA Announces Approval of Airborne Antiviral Treatment Product for Use against COVID-19
Posted on January 29, 2021 by Lisa M. Campbell

By Lisa M. Campbell and Heather F. Collins, M.S.

On January 15, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the issuance of a Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 18 emergency exemption to the states of Georgia and Tennessee permitting the use of an air treatment product, Grignard Pure, in health care facilities, intrastate transportation, food processing facilities, and indoor spaces within buildings -- including government facilities -- where people are conducting activity deemed essential by the state.  According to the EPA Authorizations for Georgia and Tennessee (EPA Authorizations), Grignard Pure forms a mist with activity against airborne SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  It contains the active ingredient triethylene glycol (TEG), an ingredient commonly used in fog machines for concerts and theater productions. 

FIFRA Section 18 authorizes EPA to exempt federal or state agencies from any provision of FIFRA in the event that emergency conditions require such an exemption.  EPA regulations (40 C.F.R. Part 166) specify when state or federal government agencies will be permitted to use unregistered pesticides in response to an emergency.  EPA’s regulations provide that an emergency exists when:

  • There is an “urgent, non-routine” situation requiring the use of a pesticide to control a new pest not previously prevalent in the United States, to control significant risks to health, the environment, beneficial organisms, or endangered species, or to prevent specified types of economic loss; and
  • There is no registered pesticide or economically or environmentally feasible alternate method of control available.

40 C.F.R. § 166.3.

The exemptions granted can be very specific and time-limited; EPA has developed a database so companies can search (by chemical, site, pest, applicant, or date range) to determine if an emergency exemption has been issued and its expiration date.

EPA’s approval will allow the Grignard Pure product to be applied in Georgia and Tennessee in certain indoor spaces where adherence to current public health guidelines is impractical or difficult to maintain.  The areas where it can be used under the exemption include breakrooms, locker rooms, bathrooms, lobbies, elevators, eating areas, and food preparation areas within health care facilities, intrastate transportation, food processing facilities, and indoor spaces within buildings.  According to the EPA Authorizations, Grignard Pure may only be applied by trained professionals through a building’s HVAC system or using portable devices positioned strategically in an indoor space.  Additionally, the label states that use of Grignard Pure does not eliminate the need for critical precautions like mask wearing and social distancing.  Signs must be posted to indicate that a space is being treated and to advise that the product may cause temporary irritation to sensitive individuals.

Based on a review of laboratory testing data, EPA states that it expects that when used as directed, Grignard Pure will inactivate continuously 98 percent of airborne SARS-CoV-2 particles. Grignard Pure was tested against a surrogate virus that is harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2.

The approved Section 18 emergency requests are effective for one year.  Any unexpected adverse effects related to the use of this product must be reported immediately to EPA as required under the terms of the FIFRA Section 18 emergency exemption approval.

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