State and federal regulators are seeing an increase in companies providing false or misleading claims about the effectiveness of disinfectants and the services companies provide to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Officials with the office of the Indiana state chemist, located on Purdue's campus, warns consumers to be cautious about those claims and look to experts for guidance.

Some companies are claiming that they can disinfect homes, offices, cars, hospitals and other spaces with products that specifically kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release. They also say these products or services can protect those spaces from the virus for weeks and months.

In some cases, cleaning companies are making false claims about the products they use. In other cases the manufacturers are exaggerating their products’ effectiveness.

OISC says companies that register pesticides — any product that repels or mitigates a pest, including a virus or bacteria — and companies that provide cleaning services with those disinfectants cannot claim that product or service provides a protective barrier, coating or that residual effects of the disinfectant will protect the consumer for an extended period; or that any product or service will control COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, since products are only effective against the virus and not the disease.

Sarah Caffery, OISC pesticide product registration specialist, said these claims could create a public health hazard by giving consumers a false sense of security.

“Consumers should be wary of claims that offer increased or advanced protections tied to this outbreak,” Caffery said in the release. “If consumers are wondering about the products they should be using to clean and disinfect their spaces, they should review the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Environmental Protection Agency websites to see what is legal and believed to be effective against the virus.”

OISC has on its website a list of products that are effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. According to the EPA criteria, the products listed have demonstrated effectiveness against harder-to-kill viruses and those similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The CDC offers advice about proper cleaning and disinfecting and the difference between the two on its site.

The EPA has information about legally registered pesticides that can be used to clean and disinfect.

OISC is pursuing enforcement against pesticide product registrants and service providers who provide false or misleading claims. Tips can be sent to pestcompliance@groups.purdue.edu.

Questions about products registered in Indiana can be directed to pestproducts@groups.purdue.edu.

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