The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency''s (EPA) Internal Design for the Environment (DfE) Logo Pilot for Disinfectants was officially launched April 23, 2009, to explore a policy change that would allow hard surface disinfectants and sanitizers to attain environmental preferability claims.
With the help of the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) and the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), the EPA sought "to determine the feasibility of allowing products that have passed DfE review to submit a label amendment to OPP in order to place the logo on pesticide products."
According to the EPA''s website, several issues arose during the initial pilot, such as: Complaints from dissenting professionals that disinfectants, which, by law, are classified as pesticides because of their broad range of microbe killing efficacy, should not be considered environmentally friendly; and staff were required to complete Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) training before records could be released.
Under the pilot program, DfE and OPP staff conducted evaluations of products previously recognized under the DfE program that mirror antimicrobial pesticide formulations.
In late 2008, when the pilot program was first announced, industry veterans were hesitant about what the future would bring.
Lynn E. Krafft, an ICAN/ATEX editor and a cleaning service operator, had the following to say at the time: "A truly ‘green'' disinfectant or pesticide is an impossibility. ‘Green'' means it is environmentally safe and harmless to living things. Anything that kills something is not meant to be harmless, so what will ‘green'' disinfection really mean?"
Moving forward, as the program makes progress, there are benchmarks to guide the U.S. along the way.
In Canada, disinfectants are already being certified and marketed as such.
Going Green, Un-certified Style
There are some ways end users can meet green expectations, while also cleaning for healthier environments.
According to Mike Sawchuk, vice president and general manager of Enviro-Solutions Ltd., the best approach is to adjust cleaning products (efficacy), disinfectants (cleaning and microbial efficacy), procedures, frequencies and the types of custodial hardware/tools/equipment used, especially should there be a change in threat levels, such as a threatening health epidemic or possibly H1N1.
"As the threat level increases, you must adjust the products used," notes Sawchuk. "Once the higher threat level passes, you can go back to the standard operating procedures and those products that were used prior to the heightened threat level."
The ultimate goal of green cleaning and infection control is to preserve the environment, including our health.
End users should, Sawchuk says, select proper products, procedures and tools for the task at hand and know when to adjust all of these as the conditions change.
If it is decided the pilot program is beneficial, the EPA, after taking modifications to the criteria into consideration, will launch an external pilot program that is likely to involve the entire industry.
Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group LLC, said: "The internal pilot announced by the EPA is a prudent and necessary step in developing a green claims policy that ensures the continued efficacy of disinfectants and that allows purchasers to make informed decisions when selecting products with a preferred environmental, safety and health profile."