Blog 11 "Biocide"
EH: I regularly come across the word biocide, but can you tell me what it means?
HBY: Biocides are simply disinfectants, so they also do what they claim to do: disinfect. That boils down to killing harmful/undesirable micro-organisms. Manufacturers can’t simply make this claim unless their product complies with the relevant legislation. That means a product has to meet certain requirements for a manufacturer to be able to say it’s a biocide.
EH: So I can't just call a product that I think works as a disinfectant a biocide?
HBY: No. you can’t. In the past, some manufacturers made use of unfounded claims, although I think a better description is 'abuse’; promising things that aren’t true. You can't get away with that anymore. These days, a manufacturer needs either a local or international authorisation. In Europe, this is managed by the ECHA, among others, while in the US, it falls under the responsibility of the FDA.
EH: So these are all independent bodies concerned with whether your product does what it claims to do?
HBY: That’s right. And be careful; there’s no way around it, and you have to submit a vast amount of information about your product. The days of doing what you want are definitively over. In fact, legislation is becoming stricter.
EH: Is it going the same way as the registration of veterinary medicines?
HBY: Veterinary medicines are very different from biocides these days. Veterinary medicines heal, and help treat inflammation. Biocides are much more common in a prevention and disinfection situation, before an outbreak of inflammation.
EH: That’s all clear, but now the question: “As a livestock farmer, how do I know whether a product is actually doing what I want it to?”
HBY: It’s quite simple, because a reliable biocide is associated with an authorisation number. This is issued by an authority, and proves that your product meets the conditions for good disinfection. It covers aspects such as the concentration, contact time, temperature, and usage. That authorisation number is on the packaging, and is fairly easy to check.
EH: Are these biocides or disinfectants also related to the hazard classifications that we discussed previously?
HBY: Of course, because some of these products are also corrosive or hazardous to the environment. Examples include formalin and peracetic acid, substances well known to be environmentally harmful or corrosive, yet classified as biocides.
EH: So I can I conclude from this that a biocide gets its name from what it’s used for, and that this doesn’t affect the hazard classification. Like other products, biocides are assigned a classification, and we have to handle and store them correctly, and take the appropriate precautions.
HBY: That’s right.