On August 24, 2020, EPA announced an emergency exemption in the state of Texas that permits American Airlines and Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine to use an antiviral that kills microbes like COVID-19 on surfaces for up to seven days.  This exemption request was submitted under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Under FIFRA, EPA regulates all pesticides distributed or sold in the United States.  FIFRA generally requires that pesticide products be registered (licensed) by EPA (read more about whether your product should be registered here).

A Section 18 Emergency Exemption authorizes EPA to exempt state and federal agencies from certain FIFRA provisions, thereby allowing unregistered uses of pesticides for emergency conditions.  Once EPA confirms that an “emergency condition” exists, the pesticide may be used in a limited geographic area for a limited time (i.e., one year).  During this time, the company can pursue full FIFRA registration.

States or federal agencies interested in pursuing a Section 18 Emergency Exemption for products that claim to be effective against viruses for up to seven days should be prepared to present efficacy data demonstrating that the product is durable and effective against viruses.  This means that a product should be assessed in ways that account for conditions expected to be encountered where the products will be used.

This is the first time EPA has granted a Section 18 Emergency Exemption for a request related to COVID-19.  The Section 18 request was submitted by the Texas Department of Agriculture for use at two Texas orthopedics clinics and American Airlines aircraft and airport facilities at specific locations in Texas.  We anticipate other states will follow suit and begin working with companies to submit Section 18 requests in an effort to combat COVID-19.