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Rush to Disinfect Offices Has Some Environmental Health Experts Worried

The EPA list of approved cleaning agents for the coronavirus includes some that haven’t been proven safe for humans. 

Workers disinfect at an office building in Maryland on March 21.

Workers disinfect at an office building in Maryland on March 21.

Photographer: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Businesses across the U.S. have begun intensive Covid-19 disinfection regimens, exposing returning workers and consumers to some chemicals that are largely untested for human health, a development that’s alarming health and environmental safety experts.

The rush to disinfect is well-intentioned. Executives want to protect employees while abiding by U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines (and to avoid liability). Pre-pandemic, corporate cleaning staffs typically “freshened” lobbies every three hours, sanitized restrooms every four hours and cleaned other areas at night, said Rich Feczko, national director of systems, standards and innovation at Crothall Healthcare, which cleans hundreds of hospitals.