EPA Issues Caveat Emptor on H1N1 Disinfectants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is warning consumers to beware of unscrupulous vendors who may market ineffective and unregistered products or services that claim to disinfect surfaces or entire rooms against the H1N1 influenza virus. In the current flu-conscious climate, heightened anxiety about the spread of the H1N1 virus has bred false claims in the marketplace, the agency warned.

"Unfortunately some vendors may try to take advantage of people's fears at a time like this and market products that aren't effective or make unsubstantiated claims," said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. "Americans need to be aware of what they may be buying."

EPA registers disinfectants for use on hard surfaces, and when used according to label directions, such products will be effective against influenza A viruses, including the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain, the agency said. There are no products registered by EPA for use in residential settings that will disinfect or sterilize the air or a room by fogging. Claims for disinfecting carpeting, drapes, and other porous surfaces are also false. The products approved by EPA are for use on hard surfaces only, and the label must state that the product is registered for the influenza A virus.

It is important to follow label instructions to ensure the safe and effective use of these products in specific sites, including health care settings, homes, schools, offices, and farms, the agency added. A list of more than 500 antimicrobial products registered by EPA for use against the influenza A virus and H1N1 on hard surfaces is available on EPA's Web site. For more information on registered products, go to www.epa.gov/oppad001/influenza-disinfectants.html.

EPA added that the public is encouraged to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for preventing the spread of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus, which stresses frequently washing your hands with soap and water. More information from the CDC on the H1N1 flu is available at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu.

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