TAMPA, Fla. -- The Hillsborough County Tax Collector has spent thousands of dollars on a product that’s not listed on the federal government’s approved list of coronavirus disinfectants.
I-Team Investigator Kylie McGivern found the office bought nearly $10,000 worth of the product, called “mPale” from mPact Environmental Solutions, based in South Carolina.
The product claims to protect against coronavirus for 30 days after application.
Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden told the I-Team he’s following the lead of Port Tampa Bay, which also ordered the product.
But the I-Team found mPale is not included on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of hundreds of products that meet its criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Last week, EPA released an expanded list of disinfectants that meet the criteria. Of the nearly 200 additional products, the agency says 40 went through its expedited review process.
The tax collector explained mPact’s product as a two-step process.
“You totally disinfect the entire office, you wait until it dries, and then you put on this mPale. Which is a coating that lasts for 30 days that breaks up the molecular structure of the virus,” said Belden. “And every night, you disinfect every single night, and then reapply the mPale in 30 days.”
Belden said he purchased a three-month supply of the product for his eight branch offices that serve around 6,000 customers a day.
Belden said, to his knowledge, “We’re the only ones in Florida beside Port Tampa Bay that has purchased this product.”
He told the I-Team he’s OK with it not being on EPA’s list, that he trusts Port Tampa Bay’s move to buy the product and, “It can’t hurt to try it.”
A spokesperson for the company mPact provided documentation to the I-Team showing mPale is approved by EPA for commercial and industrial use — but was unaware of a specific list from the government, showing products for use against COVID-19. A list its products are not on.
EPA reports, “While disinfectant products on this list have not been tested specifically against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, they are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 because they have been tested and proven effective on either a harder-to-kill virus of against another human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2.”
In an email, mPact said the first of its 2-step approach, called “mPerial ”is “a cleaning agent that is 99.99% effective against virtually all viral, material and fungal infestations including the coronavirus COVID-19” and that the company’s products “have been successfully tested against a variety of pathogens for up to 30 days on surfaces.”
The I-Team has requested more information from the company on its testing.
Hillsborough County’s tax collector said the product mPale is expected to arrive on Wednesday from South Carolina.
The tax collector’s office has also brought in extra hand sanitizers to prevent the spread of coronavirus, has blocked off its touchscreen, added signage from the CDC, and is encouraging people to take care of their business with the office online. Starting Tuesday, road tests will be suspended through at least Friday, March 20.
Belden said there are considerations to consolidate and close down smaller tax collector offices, but no decisions have been made yet.
The CDC recommends diluted household bleach and alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, as well as most common EPA-registered household disinfectants to disinfect surfaces for the virus.