The Environmental Protection Agency has filed complaints against four companies whose brochures for disinfectants contain false suggestions that the products are effective against the spread of AIDS, an agency spokesman said yesterday.
Disinfectants, legally considered pesticides because they combat bacteria, require EPA approval of their efficacy and the claims on their labels. An EPA spokesman said none of the four companies cited had received such approval for claims relating to AIDS.
"No product has been accepted as capable of completely destroying the AIDS virus," the spokesman said. "These companies are trying to increase the desirability of their products. It could be they are trying to take advantage of the public hysteria over AIDS."
The spokesman said that since 1986 -- when the agency issued a policy against false claims relating to deadly viruses -- the agency has found false claims in the brochures of 11 companies touting anti-AIDS disinfectants for use on counters and equipment in the offices of dentists and doctors.
The EPA dropped its investigation against seven companies that voluntarily stopped their anti-AIDS promotions. One company, Dixie USA Inc. of Houston, was cited for failing to register a disinfectant that promised effectiveness against AIDS.
The three other companies named in complaints are Sporicidin International of Rockville, Georgia Steel and Chemical Co. of Columbia and Colgate Hoyt of Norwood, Mass. Colgate Hoyt paid a $5,000 fine and dropped its anti-AIDS promotion in November, one month after the complaint was lodged.
According to the complaint, Georgia Steel's brochure for Clean-Gear 747 Spray Disinfectant and Odor Counteractant noted that the AIDS virus is carried in tears, blood and saliva and concluded that "common sense tells us that cleanliness is safety, and it's reasonable to clean and disinfect personal safety gear."
The agency is seeking to fine the company $5,000. Company officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Sporicidin was accused of claiming in its literature that its product in "undiluted" form is "effective in killing" the AIDS virus in one to 10 minutes. Dr. Robert Schattner, president of Sporicidin, said that EPA had approved the product to "kill everything" when it was registered in 1977, although there was no specific approval relating to AIDS.
Assistant EPA Administrator Jack Moore said yesterday that when companies falsely represent their products, "the result can the spread of infection and disease. This is very serious."