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EPA to OK American Airlines use of surface coating to fight COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: A member of a ground crew walks past American Airlines planes parked at the gate during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts -/File Photo/File Photo

(Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to announce on Monday it will issue an emergency exemption to the state of Texas permitting it to allow American Airlines Group Inc AAL.O to use a new surface coating that kills coronaviruses for up to seven days, sources briefed on the matter said.

EPA officials said the agency would approve the emergency exemption requests under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to allow the use of SurfaceWise2 — a product manufactured by Allied BioScience Inc - by both American Airlines and Texas-based Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine’s two clinics for up to a year.

American Airlines declined to comment.

The announcement comes as airlines are struggling to convince people that it is safe to resume flying. EPA officials said the product was aimed at providing added protection in public spaces that could increase consumer confidence in resuming air travel.

EPA officials said the surface coating inactivated viruses and bacteria within two hours of application and kept working against them for up to seven days.

The EPA will allow the product’s use at American Airlines airport facilities in Texas and on planes with flights originating in the state, the officials said, without providing more details. The initial application and any reapplication must occur in Texas.

Allied BioScience plans to pursue a non-emergency approval by submitting additional data to meet the EPA’s registration requirements as an antiviral surface coating. If approved, the product would become available for purchase by the public, EPA officials said.

EPA officials emphasized the product was not a replacement for routine cleaning and disinfection. Facilities must continue to get regular cleanings.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 “by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.” But the virus is believed to be spread primarily by close contact.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Peter Cooney

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