CBC is committed to giving clear and simple information to all who are interested in learning more about biocides.

What is a biocide?

Biocides are substances that prevent the growth and spread of microbes like bacteria, viruses, and fungi such as mold. Biocide products, also called antimicrobials, are used in hospitals, homes, schools, and countless other spaces to help kill germs, disinfect drinking water, ensure everyday products last longer, and keep manufacturing processes running safely.

Are biocides safe?

To help ensure safety, biocides are strictly regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. state agencies depending on how they are intended to be used. If a product claims on its label to kill microbes, like germs or bacteria, the manufacturer of the product must prove to the EPA that it kills what it is supposed to kill and that it does not cause any significant harm to people, animals, or the environment.

By law, EPA is required to regularly reevaluate every antimicrobial registration to make sure the product continues to meet safety standards.

Where are biocides used?

Because biocides help kill or prevent the growth of microbes – keeping the public safe – they are used to clean and disinfect homes, medical facilities and public spaces. Also, countless industries, from food production to manufacturing to gas extraction, rely on biocides in their day-to-day operations. Learn more about where biocides are used.

What is the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing?

As explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , there are distinct differences between “cleaning,” “sanitizing” and “disinfecting”. When it comes to killing germs, think of these processes as Action 1 (low), Action 2 (medium) and Action 3 (high) action levels. Action 1 is to clean. “Cleaning” removes germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces or objects but it does not kill gems. Cleaning works by using soap and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. Action 2 is to sanitize. “Sanitizing” lowers the number of germs on a surface or object by reducing the germs to levels considered safe by public health standards or requirements. Action 3 is to disinfect. “Disinfecting” kills germs by using chemicals directly on surfaces and objects. This process does not necessarily clean a dirty surface or remove the germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning it, disinfection can further lower risk of spreading infection.

How do biocides help in industrial settings?

Microbes can grow and thrive in many industrial settings, causing production problems and safety hazards. Antimicrobials are important in these spaces—for worker safety as well as more efficient manufacturing processes. Countless industries, from food production to manufacturing to gas extraction, rely on antimicrobials.

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