Content

Introduction

Introduction

The word biocides includes a large number of substances intended to defend human and animal health and used in various sectors, including many daily activities. biocide, in fact, it consists of the suffix gives us which means “capable of killing” and from the generic word bio which indicates those organisms (such as bacteria, algae, insects, mites, animal or vegetable parasites, rodents) on which these substances perform their action.

The purpose of biocides is, in fact, to destroy, eliminate, prevent the action and make any harmful organism harmless. Those objects capable of releasing substances that have this function are also considered biocides, such as, for example, wipes soaked in substances capable of warding off insects (repellents) and thus preventing them from stinging.

Biocides are divided into different groups according to their action; each group, in turn, is divided according to the type of product.

  • GROUP 1: disinfectants
    products used to disinfect environments, surfaces and objects of various kinds in the medical-surgical, industrial, food production and livestock sectors (for the disinfection of stables and means of transport for animals). Furthermore, these products are used to disinfect human skin, if free from wounds (such as the hands of the surgeon or the operator in the food sector) and animal skin (for example, the udders of cows before and after milking). They are also widely used in the home, in the disinfection of the surfaces of bathrooms, kitchens and floors (especially in the presence of pets in the house). Specific products are also used for the disinfection of small wounds on the skin
  • GROUP 2: preservatives or preservatives
    biocides used for different purposes such as: preventing the development of microorganisms in various products (with the exception of food and cosmetics), protecting wooden objects from the action of organisms (such as woodworms) capable of damaging it, preventing tissues, products in leather, rubber or masonry are damaged due to the growth of bacteria or algae, store the coolants of various equipment
  • GROUP 3: vermin control
    products used to control rats, mice or other rodents (rodenticides), of birds, fish, molluscs, worms (vermicides), spiders, mites (acaricides) and insects (including i repellents)
  • GROUP 4: other biocides
    this group includes both products used on boats to combat encrusting organisms, equipment used in water or for aquaculture, and products used in embalming

Each of these categories in turn includes active substances (or active ingredients) belonging to different chemical classes, which act with equally varied mechanisms. Therefore, biocidal products cannot be considered as a homogeneous group of substances.

The products on the market (formulations) contain at least one active substance that allows it to perform its action. Generally, others are added to it (called co-formulants) with the function, for example, of being able to dissolve the product more easily in water (emulsifiers), to maintain its stability and effectiveness or to improve its penetration into the "target" organism (adjuvants).

Effects on health

Effects on health

The use of biocides certainly has many positive and useful aspects, such as the ability to effectively disinfect medical instruments and surfaces in surgical rooms and hospitals.In everyday life, these substances make it possible to dress small wounds and, in general, to improve hygiene conditions, thus avoiding dangerous infections; on the other hand, to control the growth of microorganisms in various products allowing, consequently, their conservation for a longer period.

Alongside these advantages, however, there are potential risks. In fact, biocides can also represent a possible danger to human health and the environment and that is why their sale is preceded by a careful evaluation, so that their use is safe.

To carry out their action of destroying, eliminating, or preventing the action of bacteria, viruses and other organisms, these products must be able to act effectively against the structures or functions of the "target" organisms to be combated. The same structures or functions against which they act, however, may also be present in other species. This means that many of the substances used as biocides can have toxic effects even on organisms that are not their direct target, including humans.

Given the great variety and type of substances used, the possible health effects due to the use of these products are very different and it is not possible to generalize.

The ideal biocides are the so-called ones selective (ie toxic only for the "target" organisms and not for the other species) and which, once their action is carried out, do not remain in the environment for long, thus limiting damage such as pollution of water, air, soil and the consequent their accumulation in organisms.

Exposure to biocides

Exposure to biocides

Exposure to biocides can be of a professional nature, both for the workers involved in the production, transport and storage of these products, and for the operators who use them (for example, nurses and rat exterminators).

The rest of the population can be exposed through their use in the home or by coming into contact with residues of biocides present in food (for example, as a result of disinfection of surfaces in the food industry), water, environment or deposited on furniture and upholstery, surfaces which, being in closed environments, allow a longer stay. For this you must always carefully follow the methods and precautions for use indicated on the product label.

After a single exposure, the biocide residues, being in very small quantities, do not cause immediate intoxication risks, while prolonged ingestion over time could have health effects.

Legislation on biocides

Legislation on biocides

Biocidal products can be sold or used only after specific authorization.

In order to protect both human and animal health and the environment, the placing on the market and, therefore, the safe use of these substances is regulated in Europe and, consequently, also in Italy, by the (EU ) No. 528/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council in Europe which establishes rules on the authorization, sale, use and control of biocidal products within the European Community.

The control of active substances already on the market in the year 2000 and the approval of new substances to be used in biocidal products is preceded by a risk analysis process to check for the possible presence of harmful effects on human health and animals. or on the quality of the environment. After this evaluation by the member states and the central authority, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the active substances that can be authorized in biocidal products are included in a list (or positive list). On the website of the Ministry of Health it is possible to access the list of active ingredients and authorized biocidal products and also to have information on the procedures necessary for the request for authorization for this specific type of products (Ministry of Health. Biocides and medical-surgical devices ).

Bibliography

Bibliography

Regulation (EU) 528/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the making available on the market and use of biocides

European Chemical Agency (ECHA). Active biocidal ingredients

Ministry of Health. Biocides and medical-surgical aids

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