Amid the flurry of products making coronavirus-related claims, some without legal approval or scientific support, one class of products raises unique questions: so-called “pesticide devices,” like ozone generators and ultraviolet (UV) lights, which are instruments that claim to control pests — including viruses and other germs — through physical or mechanical means. Unlike chemical pesticides, such devices are not required to be registered by EPA and, therefore, are not scrutinized by the agency to ensure they are safe to use or work as intended.
Accordingly, EPA recently issued an advisory that cautions:
Please note that ozone generators, UV lights and other pesticide devices may not be able to make claims against coronavirus where devices have not been tested for efficacy or safety for use against the virus causing COVID-19 or harder-to-kill viruses.
Pesticide devices, unlike some existing surface disinfectant products that have data on file with EPA showing effectiveness against similar viruses, are not eligible under the agency’s Emerging Pathogens Policy to make claims related to the coronavirus/SARS-CoV-2 or for inclusion on EPA’s “List N” of products deemed to be effective against the virus.
Pesticide devices, though not subject to registration, are subject to other EPA requirements. For example, while devices will not have an “EPA Registration Number,” they are required to be labeled with an “EPA Establishment Number” to identify the facility at which the device was produced. In particular, any claims made for devices may not be false or misleading, and, therefore, manufacturers should have data on file to substantiate any claims. It is possible, therefore, that a device could be effective against coronavirus, and legally could make such claims, though companies should be prepared to defend the statements. To do so, companies should look carefully at the criteria for claim approval in EPA’s Emerging Pathogens Policy.
EPA is actively pursuing enforcement in regard to illegal coronavirus claims, further information on which can be found at https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/covid-19-enforcement-and-compliance-resources.