Cleansers, Once Shunned, Now Welcomed During Crisis

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What was once a chore has become a necessity during the COVID-19 crisis. We are all constantly cleaning our homes, our cars, our hands and even our food and delivery packages as we do our best to slow the spread of this highly infectious disease. Ironically, the cleaning products that some environmentalists once derided as dangerous are now hailed as lifesaving. 

There is a time and a place for homemade remedies and household staples like vinegar, lemon and baking soda. But now is not that time. These items have not been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – the authority on such matters – for use against pathogens like the novel coronavirus. In the face of a global pandemic, scientifically sound cleansers have become essential to protecting our homes and businesses.

The manufacturers of cleansers and disinfectants have always recommended that consumers apply the right solution to the right problem. In the current circumstances, the EPA has made clear that only certain cleansers are effective against viruses. Its list can be found here. That is why the effort by some to rid the marketplace of certain products is not only misguided but counterproductive. A wide range of products need to be available on store shelves to match the diversity of human needs, particularly during an international health crisis like the one we face today.

This isn’t a new lesson. The cleansers that are needed now to fight COVID-19 also played vital roles in past efforts to stem Ebola, the swine flu and SARS. Had they been banned, as some called for, during these previous medical scares, the outcomes might have been very different.

Environmentalists and manufacturers want cleaning products to keep people safe and healthy. And that has never been truer than today. In fact, the cleaning products industry has always produced cleansers and disinfectants that are safe yet also manage to get the job done.

To be sure, manufacturers are marketing greener, more sustainable cleaning products that consumers want. But there needs to be a balance if we are to maintain our society’s well-being. To that end, manufacturers have significantly stepped up production of familiar and trusted cleaners and disinfectants, especially to assist coronavirus epicenters such as New York City, Seattle and New Orleans. Suppliers of packaging components are also working around the clock to overcome supply chain challenges to support the accelerated production of these vital products. 

Members of the Household & Commercial Products Association, such as Clorox, Lonza, Procter & Gamble, Henkel, RB, SCJ, Stepan and Sterilex, among many others, are working with the EPA to make sure that consumers have what they need. Specifically, industry and the EPA are collaborating to expedite the review and approval of surface disinfectants for use against viruses like COVID-19.

In many cases, the agency has been able to approve disinfectant claims within 14 days compared to the 90-day window these claims typically take. This has put effective products on retailers’ shelves while maintaining appropriate standards.

The shared goal: classifying as many cleansers as possible as effective in killing the virus.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has said: “Our collaboration is critical to slowing the spread of this virus, keeping us safe and healthy. By expediting reviews – both in labeling familiar products, and by approving new products for market – we’re aiding American families and communities across America.”

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has been jarring but also clarifying in many ways. The manufacturers of cleaning products will not waver in their commitment to giving customers the products they need to keep their homes and workplaces safe. It’s important in these trying times that government and industry work together to allow everyone to keep cleaning.

Steve Caldeira is president and CEO of the Household & Commercial Products Association.



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