Feds Approve Use of Covid Disinfectant in Texas

An employee fumigates disinfectant onto student lockers at Bowie Middle School in Odessa, Texas, on July 28, 2020. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP)

WASHINGTON (CN) — EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced Monday the limited emergency approval of a disinfectant that the agency says can kill the new coronavirus on treated surfaces for up to seven days.

Surfacewise2 was created by the Dallas-based Allied BioScience and was called a “first of its kind” by Wheeler in a press call held Monday morning.

“Since day one I’ve been committed to ensuring Americans have as many tools as possible to clean and disinfect their surfaces,” he said, announcing a public health emergency exemption waiver for the product. “This is a groundbreaking step that is expected to provide longer-lasting protection in public safety to increase consumer confidence in resuming air travel activities.”

Wheeler said the product was approved for use in two Texas orthopedic centers as well as on board American Airlines planes and in some airports, but it is currently only approved in the Lone Star State. He said he hopes other states will apply for approval of the product and that its use will be expanded beyond planes and medical facilities, possibly to schools and other public places, but warned that could take months.

Surfacewise2 is applied by electrostatic devices and is capable of killing the Covid-19 virus within two hours of application. American Airlines said it plans to apply the product to surfaces inside some planes, but since approval is limited to Texas it can only be used in planes that land in the state.

American Airlines COO David Seymour said he hopes the use of the product will give Americans the confidence to start flying again.

“Surfacewise2 will make the travel experience even safer for those who are ready to return to the skies and reopen our country to business,” said Seymour, who was also on Monday’s call. “We are taking strong measures and using the latest products and technology to give our customers peace of mind when they travel with us.”

Maha El-Sayed, chief science officer for Allied BioScience, called the product “groundbreaking” in how it binds to surfaces and continues to kill viruses that land on it. And while she said research has shown viruses most often transfer through close contact between people, studies on comparable flu viruses show as much as 30% of surfaces being infected. Surfacewise2, she said, will help address that 30%.  

“This unique, long-lasting defense is a much-needed layer of protection against Covid-19,” El-Sayed said, noting the company hopes to prove the product lasts even longer than its approved 7-day cycle.

According to a deep dive on the product published by the Dallas Morning News in June, Allied BioScience has been working on continuously active antimicrobial coating for the better part of a decade. A study released by the company in April suggests the product could be effective for up to 90 days.

“The urgent need for our coatings is distilled in a simple insight: contamination in public spaces is continuous, yet conventional cleaning and disinfecting is point-in-time,” Allied BioScience CEO Michael Ruley said in a statement when the study was published. “Doing so constantly to replicate a continuous benefit is impractical and prohibitively expensive.”

But the use of antimicrobial coating is not universally praised. Surfacewise2 relies on quaternary ammonium, a compound used in many products aimed at adding a disinfecting quality to surfaces in places like hospitals. Studies have linked the use of the compound in some of these environments with an increase in asthma among those who work near it.

But Wheeler said Monday there has been “no harmful effects on people or the environment by the use of the product”  and he expressed confidence in Surfacewise 2 as a solution to slow the spread of the virus in a time of great crisis.  

“There is no higher priority for the Trump administration than protecting the health and safety of Americans and I want to thank those who have worked with us to achieve this major milestone,” he said. 

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