What Does The Term Biocidal Mean?

The term Biocidal in the European legislation is defined as a chemical substance or microorganism that intends to deter, destroy, render harmless or exert a controlling effect on any harmful organism whether by biological or chemical means.

Disinfectants are unlike other antimicrobial agents, i.e. antibiotics that destroy microorganisms within the body and antiseptics that kills them on living tissue. Disinfectants have the purpose of destroying the cell walls of microbes or causing interference with their metabolisms.

Sanitisers used in hospitals, dental practices or kitchens to kill infectious organisms on the other hand, concurrently disinfect and clean

How Are Biocides Used?

Biocides are generally used as microorganisms and chemicals and contain one or several more substances of either chemical or biological origin.

The Main Uses Include:

  • Healthcare Products – used as an active ingredient in disinfectants, antiseptic products or to preserve pharmaceutical preparations in Hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
  • Consumer Products – building materials, furniture, cosmetics, textiles, wallpaper and household cleaning products. Significant exposure to biocides often occurs with the regular use of pet & general disinfectants, personal hygiene products such as cosmetics and cleaning products. 
  • Disinfection of Containers relating to transport – fumigation of freight containers to protect goods when in transit and to the prevention of insect and pest infestations.
  • Water Treatment – most commonly active in products such as chlorine, chlorine dioxide and ozone for treating drinking water. Other applications include wastewater treatment and industrial use.
  • Food Production – active in food preservatives as well as disinfectants used for the food industry to clean surfaces, containers, equipment and areas where food or drinks are stored.
  • Livestock Farming – a vital element used in protecting farm animals from diseases that may spread on to humans and to disinfect buildings or animals (teat dips).

All products that contain biocides are subject to pre-marketing approval, and the Biocidal Products Regulation is regulating the placement of biocidal products on the market and the application of them in protecting animals, humans, articles and materials against unfavourable bacterial or pests, due to active substances contained in the biocidal product.

Health-related Concerns

Employees can be exposed to biocides through subsequent exposure or first exposure.

  • Secondary exposure happened when a worker was exposed when using biocidal products when cleaning work clothes that are contaminated.
  • Primary exposure occurs if a worker uses a biocidal product.
Generally, biocidal exposure occurs through dermal contact or inhalation.

Laboratory experiments indicated that biocides might lead to elevated selective pressure towards antibiotic and disinfectant resistance. This means that certain bacteria have a high tolerance against disinfectants and developing cross-resistance to selected antibiotics. Antibiotics usage for animal production can leave residues in eggs, milk or meat that can hurt the consumer. This is why antimicrobials are subject to pre-marketing approval.

Health Risks:

Biocides pose an unusually high risk to:
  • Pregnant women
  • Small children
  • Unborn life
  • People with chronic illnesses
Disinfectants and other dangerous biocides can include health hazards that include harmful effects on eyes, skin, nervous system, respiratory system and other organs of the body.

Biocides can also have a negative impact on the environment as well as long-lasting and harsh repercussions on marine ecosystems.