CINCINNATI — Cincinnati-based First Student, the largest school bus service company in the country, has claimed it's using a disinfectant on school buses that can kill the coronavirus for up to 30 days.
"Zoono Z71 will provide lasting protection against the Covid virus for up to 30 days," Kenn Jones, a First Student senior location manager said last week during an interview with WCPO 9 News.
But a WCPO 9 I-Team investigation confirmed the EPA hasn't approved the disinfectant Zoono Z71 as a product that kills the virus, much less for 30 days.
On Wednesday, the I-Team reviewed First Student's public website designed for parents. There, First Student claimed Zoono Z71 kills the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and provides up to 30 days of protection, adding that the product is registered with the EPA.
The product is registered with the EPA as a disinfectant, but the I-Team learned Zoono Z71 is not among the 475 products approved by the EPA to kill the coronavirus on surfaces.
"We cannot make that claim in the USA," Zoono CEO Paul Hyslop told the I-Team Tuesday during a Zoom interview from his corporate office in New Zealand. "Everyone is looking for a miracle product. Our product is a good product. I don't believe it's a miracle product."
Hyslop told the I-Team a national government lab in a country he declined to name proved Zoono Z71 can kill a lab-created surrogate coronavirus up to 30 days after the disinfectant is applied to a surface.
He said China and South Korea accepted the test results and allow Zoono to claim the disinfectant can kill the virus for 30 days.
Hyslop said in Australia and the United Kingdom, Zoono can claim its product kills the virus, but Hyslop said those countries did not accept test results supporting the 30-day claims because of the methodology used in the tests.
"It would be a whole lot easier if there was a global standard," Hyslop told the I-Team.
Still, Hyslop said, Zoono sold over 1 million liters of Zoono Z71 in April alone.
Hyslop said he's optimistic Zoono will soon be added to the EPA's approved list of disinfectants that kill the virus that causes COVID-19.
"We have applied directly to the EPA for an emergency approval. We have got testing underway at the moment in the U.S. for 30-day claims," Hyslop said.
In a written statement provided to the I-Team, First Student said, "At First Student, there is nothing more important than the safety, health and well-being of our passengers and employees. Since the interview last week, we have been in contact with Mr. Hyslop regarding the claims that can be made about his product in the U.S."
The I-Team asked First Student spokesman Chris Kemper if that meant First Student would retract or clarify its claims about the disinfectant, and Kemper said First Student is changing its claims to reflect what Zoono is allowed to say about its product.
On Thursday, First Student removed all of the previous material about the disinfectant and the claims First Student made about it.
"I knew that there weren't any products licensed by the EPA to do that (kill COVID for 30 days)," said Spencer Bouldin, the WCPO 9 viewer who encouraged the I-Team to investigate First Student's claim about the disinfectant.
Bouldin, the owner and CEO of Spencer's Environmental Services, said his company distributes disinfectants in the Cincinnati area.
He said he was concerned about health risks facing students, especially African American students and employees who have tested positive at higher rates than whites.
Bouldin was surprised and impressed that First Student had removed the claims about the disinfectant so quickly.
"It's absolutely the right thing to do. No question," Bouldin said.