Protecting Hospitals and Medicines
Preserving Water Quality
Safeguarding Public Spaces

The spread of dangerous microorganisms is one of the greatest risks to human health. Pathogens can spread through an insect bite, causing deadly diseases like malaria. They can contaminate food or drinking water with bacteria like E. coli and legionella. The spread is easier in areas where there is great person-to-person contact, such as medical facilities, swimming pools, cruise ships, and hotels. To control these pathogens, we rely on a variety of antimicrobial products.

Protecting Hospitals and Medicines

Antimicrobial pesticides help control microbiological contamination

Antimicrobial pesticides are an essential component in the arsenal used to control microbiological contamination in hospitals and other medical facilities. More than 150 years ago, we understood that microscopic organisms are responsible for many diseases and infections. This understanding revolutionized the practice of medicine and led to the growing body of knowledge on the prevention of microbial contamination and the control of infectious disease. 

Biocides are not antibiotics like penicillin. Rather, antimicrobials function as disinfectants and antiseptics to help sterilize environments, such as hospitals and other medical facilities, to prevent the spread and growth of microorganisms.

Disinfectants are used to decontaminate surfaces and medical equipment. Patients should be assured that all medical equipment meets strict sterilization procedures prior to use; this often requires the use of antimicrobials. In particular, some medical equipment is extremely sensitive to heat, and, thus, chemical disinfectants are essential. 

Biocides also help limit the spread of bacteria from health care professionals to patients. For example, the use of alcohol-based hand rubs by doctors and nurses have helped limit the spread of hospital-acquired infections.

Antiseptics, such as hydrogen peroxide, are applied to living tissue to treat infections in surface wounds. Antiseptics also include mouthwashes, wart treatments, and some acne treatments.

In addition to disinfection and sterilization, antimicrobials serve another valuable purpose in health care—they help preserve the shelf life of pharmaceuticals and vaccines by preventing bacterial contamination. Unwanted bacterial growth in medical products can decrease the effectiveness of medications or even cause health risks to patients. 

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Preserving Water Quality

Water is an ideal habitat for microorganisms. Our oceans, lakes, and streams are teeming with important microscopic life. While these microorganisms are important to many ecosystems, those microbes can pose a health threat to municipal drinking water, wastewater, swimming pools, and water used in food production or other industrial processes. Specialized biocidal products help control microbial growth in these important applications.

Disinfecting Drinking Water

Municipal wastewater disinfection is necessary for safe, potable‐water supplies

Beginning in the early years of the 20th century, the provision of chlorinated drinking water virtually eliminated typhoid fever, cholera and other waterborne diseases, representing one of the great achievements of public health safety. The use of this antimicrobial and others help ensure our drinking water is free of harmful pathogens.

Untreated water can be dangerous to consume.  This is why drinking water disinfection is a critically important function when responding to emergency situations resulting from floods, earthquakes, and other natural and civil disasters. Campers, hikers and boaters also use antimicrobials when access to treated water is limited or not possible. 

Treating Wastewater

Municipal wastewater disinfection is necessary for safe, potable‐water supplies and for healthy rivers and streams that receive the wastewater effluent. Microorganisms are present in large numbers in sewage treatment plant effluent, and waterborne disease outbreaks have been associated with water supplies and recreational waters that have become contaminated from untreated sewage waters. Chlorination is by far the most common antimicrobial used in wastewater disinfection. It is used worldwide to destroy a variety of bacteria, viruses and protozoa in wastewater, including Salmonella, Shigella and Vibrio cholera.

Protecting Food and Beverage Production

Numerous processes rely on antimicrobials to protect equipment

Water is integral to food and beverage production. It is an ingredient in beverages, a mixing or seeping medium in food processing, and a medium for cleaning and sanitizing in all production facilities. Numerous processes rely on antimicrobials to protect equipment, maintain performance, conserve energy, and maintain water quality. Antimicrobials are an indispensable tool used to protect the nation’s food supply from pathogenic microorganisms.

Foodborne illnesses impose a huge cost on the U.S. economy: A 2010 report funded by the Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University, estimated that foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. economy more than $152 billion per year.

This number underestimates the total cost—the study only examined illness caused by the most common pathogens, and while the report includes medical expenses, productivity losses from missed work, and the estimated value of premature deaths, researchers did not factor in the many major costs to industry for product embargoes, product destruction and recalls, or the extensive measures undertaken daily to reduce the presence of food‐borne pathogens in the food supply.

Disinfecting Swimming Pools and Spas

Antimicrobials are essential to maintaining the safety of swimming pools and spas.

Antimicrobials are essential to maintaining the safety of swimming pools and spas. Bacteria and other pathogens can enter pools from the environment or from the swimmers themselves.  To prevent the spread of disease in pools and spas, they need to be treated with antimicrobials that are effective for a wide range of organisms and that are able to impart a sanitizing residual throughout the water.

The use of antimicrobials in public swimming pools and spas is required and regulated by many state, county and local health department regulations. The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided standards and a model code to help guide local public health authorities in developing their regulations. The standards and model code provide guidance for the proper use of antimicrobials in pool and spa operation and maintenance.

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Safeguarding Public Spaces

The use of biocides to disinfect surfaces and sanitize hands helps inhibit the spread of disease.

We all want public spaces to be clean and safe. Any environment that places many people close together poses a greater risk for the spread of infections. Schools, daycare facilities, nursing homes, and workplaces are breeding grounds for the spread of infections. The use of biocides to disinfect surfaces and sanitize hands helps inhibit the spread of disease.

Public transportation, such as airplanes, trains, ships and buses, also rely on sanitizers and disinfectants to maintain cleanliness and safety. Cruise ships pose a particular public health challenge—when ill or infectious passengers are aboard a ship, they endanger an isolated, dense population of travelers. To protect passengers, the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program establishes high sanitation standards for the industry. In order to meet these strict standards, the cruise industry relies on a variety of biocide products.

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