In a major announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency has given American Airlines permission to use an antimicrobial spray that can kill coronavirus on surfaces for up to seven days.
It’s the first time the EPA has issued emergency authorization for a germ-resistant barrier product to be used against coronavirus. The decision could have wide-ranging implications for other germ barrier cleaning products, including some already used in schools and hospitals, even though the EPA has not evaluated their effectiveness against coronavirus.
American Airlines said it plans to treat high-touch surfaces on its airplanes with a product known as “SurfaceWise2,” made by Plano-based Allied BioScience. The product creates a barrier that makes a surface less hospitable to germs.
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The EPA said SurfaceWise2 is effective against coronavirus for up to seven days, but it is still not a substitute for regular cleaning.
For now, the agency has authorized American Airlines to treat planes only while they are in Texas, where American is based.
Antimicrobial germ barrier products have been around for years with EPA approval for use against bacteria and mold. But until now, the EPA had never validated claims that they work against viruses or protect against viruses for an extended period of time.
Last week, NBC 5 Investigates reported Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD recently hired a company called “The Germinator” to treat all schools and school buses with a similar product. In fact, it contains the same active ingredient as the product the EPA has now validated as a seven-day coronavirus killer.
In a sales presentation to the school district, a local Germinator franchise said the product it uses could kill coronavirus on surfaces for 90 days, a claim the EPA has not verified for any products so far.
The Germinator said independent research showed their product provided longer-lasting virus protection.
But some cleaning industry experts told NBC 5 Investigates they feared talk of 90-day protection could give people a false sense of security, and they might skip regular cleaning that's still needed.
The experts said substances left smeared on surfaces can limit the effectiveness of germ barrier products if the surface is not regularly cleaned.
The Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD contract will cost the school district $1.4 million for three treatments 90 days apart during the 2020-21 school year. The product will be applied in all school buildings and school buses.
District officials said they believed each treatment would in fact protect for 90 days based on the independent research the company has provided. The school district has marketed the 90-day protection to parents as part of its messaging on COVID-19 safety protocols as students prepare to return for in-person learning.
In its announcement Monday, the EPA said it planned to give more germ shield makers a chance to submit research soon and that could lead to EPA certification for more products, allowing them to make seven-day coronavirus effectiveness claims too.
Germinator CEO Jeff Gill said Monday his company has hired advisors to help position the product they use for EPA approval as a longer-lasting virus killer.
“We feel it is a matter of time until the EPA reviews the testing results and recognizes this very useful technology for today’s environment”, Gill said in an email to NBC 5 Investigates.