Biocides-March 2018

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety

March 2018


Biocides are used in many industries as disinfectants and are very effective in controlling unwanted microorganisms. They are also used as preservatives and pesticides. Examples of biocides include liquids such as quaternary ammonia, chlorine, ethanol, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, lodophor (iodine), isopropanol and phenol. Biocides are used in healthcare, consumer products such as cosmetics, cleaners, building materials, food production, agriculture, and water treatment. They are commonly used in machining operations to prevent microbial growth and preserve water-based cutting fluids. Biocides are used in cooling towers and water treatment systems to prevent the growth of legionella, the bacteria that causes legionnaire’s disease.

Biocides have toxic effects that may also be harmful to humans. The most common effect is either allergic or contact dermatitis. They can also be carcinogenic, have endocrine disrupting properties, and have other adverse effects on human health which may include the  skin, eyes, respiratory system, nervous system, and other organs. Biocides can also effect the fetus of pregnant women.

It is important that employers and workers have a thorough knowledge on the usage and effects of biocides before they are used in production. For those that are problematic and if a less toxic alternative cannot be found, adequate engineering controls, personal protective equipment, information, and training should be provided.

Although OSHA and the EPA have some regulations on biocides, the European Union has done more research and has a useful classification system. It lists 22 product types divided into four main groups including Disinfectants and General Biocidal Products, Preservatives, Pest Control Products, and Other Biocidal Products. It can be helpful in evaluating biocidal chemicals used in the workplace.

Biocides are necessary to control organisms that are harmful to human or animal health or cause damage to natural or manufactured products. Since they are designed to kill organisms, it is important that workers be protected from unwanted consequences of their use.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety Services, Inc. Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues or see past newsletters at

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