WASHINGTON — American Airlines plans to start spraying some of its planes with the first "long-lasting" product approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to kill coronaviruses on surfaces between regular cleanings.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced Monday that the agency has issued an emergency exemption for the disinfectant SurfaceWise2 to be authorized for use in Texas. The product, manufactured by Allied BioScience , is applied via electrostatic spray and used to coat a surface and create an invisible barrier that works against viruses and bacteria for up to seven days.
The EPA said the product is expected to provide longer-lasting protection against COVID-19 in public spaces.
“Since day one, I have been committed to ensuring that Americans have as many tools as possible to protect their families and today we are delivering on that promise by approving the first-ever long-lasting antiviral product that will help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus," Wheeler said in a statement.
The emergency exemption allows American Airlines planes and airport facilities in Texas, along with Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine clinics, the ability to use the disinfectant spray.
The EPA administrator explained during a recent press call that the Section 18 Emergency Exemption program requires applications to come from specific states or other federal agencies. So, businesses outside of Texas interested in using the product will need to have their states reach out to the EPA for approval.
For now, American Airlines will only be allowed to spray aircraft flying into and out of Texas because the EPA approval is limited to that state. But the airline said it eventually plans to use the product on surfaces throughout its entire fleet.
“The American Airlines Clean Commitment is our promise that we’re taking bold measures and using the latest products and technology to help ensure our customers’ well-being when they travel with us,” said American’s Chief Operating Officer David Seymour in a press release. "Thanks to rigorous evaluations conducted by the experienced professionals at the EPA, the American Airlines team and Allied BioScience, our multitiered program will become even stronger at safeguarding our customers and team members from virus such as coronavirus and the flu.”
During a conference call with reporters, Wheeler said he expects other states to ask for their own emergency exemption to use the product in airplanes, schools and other facilities, according to Fortune.
In the next few months, Allied BioScience will work to receive non-emergency approval for its product. Once the full registration process is finished, SurfaceWise2 will then be available to members of the public, according to the EPA.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that COVID-19 mainly spreads through close contact from person-to-person. However, it could spread in other ways like by "touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads."
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The United States has more than 5.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.
Just after 11:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday, the U.S. had more than 178,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are nearly 24 million confirmed cases with more than 820,000 deaths.