A Des Moines cleaning company will pay a $75,000 penalty for falsely claiming it could prevent the coronavirus from growing on surfaces for up to 90 days, Iowa’s attorney general said Tuesday.
The company, Heritage Building Maintenance, made the claim for its “Test-Treat-Track” process, state officials said. In fact, the cleaning method is approved for controlling certain types of bacteria and fungi, but not viruses, officials said.
The attorney general’s office said in a news release that the company sold the process to about 65 Iowa customers. The process was used in more than 200 locations in the Des Moines area, including buildings owned by school districts, medical providers and local governments, the release said.
“As the pandemic began, we shared concerns that companies would try to sell cleaning services based on unfounded claims to prevent the coronavirus, wasting Iowans’ money and potentially harming their health,” Attorney General Tom Miller said in the release. “We were pleased to come to a resolution with Heritage Building Maintenance and to finalize this agreement that refunds customers and puts an end to these claims.”
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The settlement, signed in late November, says the company must continue to offer refunds to customers who purchased the service. It also says that when the company promotes its cleaning process, it “shall clearly and unambiguously disclose that the antimicrobial surface protectant used in the Test-Treat-Track process is not EPA-approved to prevent the transmission of any virus, including the coronavirus, or the transmission of disease.”
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people focused on intense cleaning of surfaces to try to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Some went as far as scrubbing their groceries with bleach. But scientists later determined the virus mostly spreads through the air.
“It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects … but the risk is generally considered to be low,” the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says.
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Heritage Building Maintenance continues to tout itself online as a “health-centric” janitorial service. Its website says that “customers who participate in our Science-Proven Microbial Control Program can rest assured they are receiving state-of-the-art surface protection, making their built environments cleaner, safer, and more healthy for all their occupants.” The statement doesn’t mention the coronavirus.
A woman who answered the phone at the company Tuesday declined to comment when asked about the settlement.
Tony Leys covers health care for the Register. Reach him at [email protected] or 515-284-8449.