DISINFECTANTS ARE ACTUALLY REGISTERED PESTICIDES
By Zachary Ciras on April 15, 2020.
Many of us have found hand sanitizers and household disinfectants or disinfecting wipes in short supply lately. Even bleach can be hard to come by. Some folks are improvising and using a combination of products in an attempt to disinfect their home and belongings against COVID-19.
You may wonder why a pest control company blog is concerned with disinfectants. The reason is that disinfectants are technically, and legally, classified as pesticides and we want our readers to understand that fact. Disinfectants are registered and regulated by the government’s Environmental Protection Agency as antimicrobial pesticides or biocides, and therefore, the product label must bear an EPA Reg. No. Be wary of products that claim to “kill germs” but are not registered by EPA.
We use household antimicrobial pesticides all the time without really being aware of it. Toilet bowl sanitizers, swimming pool chemicals, and certain “disinfecting bleaches,” to name a few. Surprised? Take a look at your name-brand disinfecting bathroom spray cleaner that “kills 99.9% of germs.” In the small print, you will find an EPA Reg. No. and the required WARNING signal word to let you know that the product can be an eye, skin, or breathing hazard.
DOES THE PRODUCT DISINFECT, OR JUST CLEAN?
The surface disinfecting sprays and wipes that we are all using now are registered pesticides, but “cleaning wipes” are not. The key word is “disinfecting.” Disinfecting is defined as the use of chemicals (EPA-registered disinfectants) that kill germs or microorganisms on surfaces. Cleaning, on the other hand, does not kill germs but may help to physically remove them from surfaces. Cleaning wipes do not kill COVID-19 or other viruses nor do they disinfect and they are not registered by EPA.
Also not registered by EPA are hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps. Although these do kill germs, because they are personal products they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration instead.
TREAT DISINFECTANTS WITH RESPECT
Using a pesticide on household surfaces may seem scary, but you need a disinfectant if you want to kill germs. The fact that EPA has tested and registered these products means that they are safe for you to use, as long as you follow any user safety precautions on the product’s label. You generally should wear gloves and perhaps eye protection when using disinfectants.
Since we all probably have more household disinfectant chemicals around than ever before, and since we also have children at home more than ever before, remember to store these potentially toxic products up out of the reach of children and pets (see Protect Children From Household Pesticides).
For more information on the use of disinfectants, see the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) page Using Disinfectants to Control the COVID-19 Virus, and also their Antimicrobials Fact Sheet.