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WASHINGTON (November 10, 2020) – Center for Biocides Chemistries (CBC) Executive Director Komal K. Jain will serve as co-chair of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Emerging Pathogens Workgroup, a new body created to comprehensively assess EPA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the group will examine EPA’s first use of its Emerging Viral Pathogens policy and what lessons can be learned to ensure the agency is prepared for future events.

The Workgroup plans to focus on EPA’s processes for registering disinfectants and their manufacturers’ ability to make claims of effectiveness against novel viruses like COVID-19. Dr. Tajah Blackburn, Senior Scientist in the Antimicrobial Division of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, will serve as co-chair.

The Emerging Pathogens Workgroup will operate under the Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC), which was established in 1995 to provide advice and recommendations to EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Jain was appointed to the PPDC in 2017 and again in 2019 by EPA Administrators Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler, respectively. In June 2020, Jain forwarded a proposal calling for the creation of the Emerging Pathogens Workgroup.

“I am honored to co-chair this effort by EPA to help ensure that the government, industry, and relevant stakeholders are prepared and equipped for the possibility of future pandemics,” Jain said. “As we’ve seen this year, antimicrobial products are critical in the fight against disease-causing viruses, and it is essential that manufacturers are able to produce and distribute the products that combat the spread of these pathogens.

“The CBC continues to be very focused on educating the public about safe use of antimicrobials and ensuring that its members’ products are always used in accordance with their labels,” she said.

As the head of one of the leading trade groups for the antimicrobial industry, Jain brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Workgroup. Since February, CBC has maintained and regularly updated a list of antimicrobial products that have been determined by EPA to be effective at killing the COVID-19 virus. The list now includes more than 1,100 commercially available products.

CBC has also worked throughout the year to ensure these products are, and continue to be, available to consumers during a time when demand outweighs supply. The group collaborated with EPA to develop and implement regulatory flexibilities for the supply chain of active and inert ingredients used to make the products. This enabled manufacturers to maintain and increase their production.

The new Workgroup will focus specifically on EPA’s use of the Emerging Viral Pathogens (EVP) policy, a voluntary, two-step process that allows manufacturers of EPA-registered products to claim effectiveness against emerging viral pathogens that are not identified on the product label. The EVP policy was enacted in 2016, and in March 2020, COVID-19 became the first pathogen to trigger it.

The Workgroup will examine the strengths and weaknesses of implementation of the EVP during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons that can be drawn, and the question of whether modifications to the policy should be considered. The Workgroup will also consider development of educational outreach opportunities or stewardship programs to help the general public understand the proper use of disinfectants and to solicit feedback on challenges faced by end users.

Jain said she hopes for a wide cross-section of Workgroup members, consisting of officials from state and federal public health agencies, registrants of antimicrobial products, and representatives from the farmworker, healthcare, environmental, and Native American communities. Stakeholders interested in participating in the work group may inquire about applying to EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs.

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