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A biocide is a chemical substance or microorganism which can deter, render harmless, or exert a controlling effect on any harmful organism by chemical or biological means. Biocides are commonly used in medicine, agriculture, forestry, and industry. Biocidal substances and products are also employed as anti-fouling agents or disinfectants under other circumstances: chlorine, for example, is used as a short-life biocide in industrial water treatment but as a disinfectant in swimming pools. Many biocides are synthetic, but a class of natural biocides, derived from, e.g., bacteria and plants.[1]

A biocide can be:

Biocide can also refer to the destruction of life, a form of omnicide that affects every living thing, not just humans; one who wishes that everything in the entire world, or universe, face extinction, is labeled a 'Biocidist', or having 'biocidal' ideologies.


Biocides can be added to other materials (typically liquids) to protect them against biological infestation and growth. For example, certain types of quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) are added to pool water or industrial water systems to act as an algicide, protecting the water from infestation and growth of algae. It is often impractical to store and use poisonous chlorine gas for water treatment, so alternative methods of adding chlorine are used. These include hypochlorite solutions, which gradually release chlorine into the water, and compounds like sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione (dihydrate or anhydrous), sometimes referred to as "dichlor", and trichloro-s-triazinetrione, sometimes referred to as "trichlor". These compounds are stable while solids and may be used in powdered, granular, or tablet form. When added in small amounts to pool water or industrial water systems, the chlorine atoms hydrolyze from the rest of the molecule forming hypochlorous acid (HOCl) which acts as a general biocide killing germs, micro-organisms, algae, and so on. Halogenated hydantoin compounds are also used as biocides.

An innovation is the use of copper and its alloys (brasses, bronzes, cupronickel, copper-nickel-zinc, and others) as biocidal surfaces to destroy a wide range of microorganisms (E. coli O157:H7, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Staphylococcus, Clostridium difficile, influenza A virus, adenovirus, and fungi).[2][3][4] The United States Environmental Protection Agency has approved the registration of 355 different antimicrobial copper alloys that kill E. coli O157:H7, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Staphylococcus, Enterobacter aerogenes, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in less than 2 hours of contact. As a public hygienic measure in addition to regular cleaning, antimicrobial copper alloys are being installed in healthcare facilities[5] and in a subway transit system.[6][7][8]

Hazards and environmental risks[edit]

Because biocides are intended to kill living organisms, many biocidal products pose significant risk to human health and welfare. Great care is required when handling biocides and appropriate protective clothing and equipment should be used. The use of biocides can also have significant adverse effects on the natural environment. Anti-fouling paints, especially those utilising organic tin compounds such as TBT, have been shown to have severe and long-lasting impacts on marine eco-systems and such materials are now banned in many countries for commercial and recreational vessels (though sometimes still used for naval vessels).[citation needed]

Disposal of used or unwanted biocides must be undertaken carefully to avoid serious and potentially long-lasting damage to the environment.


European Community Classification[edit]

The Biocidal Products Directive 98/8/EC (BPD), the classification of biocides, is broken down into 22 product types (i.e. application categories), with several comprising multiple subgroups:[9][10]

MAIN GROUP 1: Disinfectants and general biocidal products

  • Product-type 1: Human hygiene biocidal products
  • Product-type 2: Private area and public health area disinfectants and other biocidal products
  • Product-type 3: Veterinary hygiene biocidal products
  • Product-type 4: Food and feed area disinfectants
  • Product-type 5: Drinking water disinfectants

MAIN GROUP 2: Preservatives

  • Product-type 6: In-can preservatives
  • Product-type 7: Film preservatives
  • Product-type 8: Wood preservatives
  • Product-type 9: Fibre, leather, rubber and polymerised materials preservatives
  • Product-type 10: Masonry preservatives
  • Product-type 11: Preservatives for liquid-cooling and processing systems
  • Product-type 12: Slimicides
  • Product-type 13: Metalworking-fluid preservatives

MAIN GROUP 3: Pest control

MAIN GROUP 4: Other biocidal products

Current market[edit]

The global demand on biocides for use in industrial and consumer goods was estimated at US$6.4 billion in 2008, roughly 3% up from the previous year. Affected by the global economic crisis, the market will remain quite sluggish by 2010. The industry overall is further burdened by ever stricter regulations. The market saw a wave of consolidation in 2008, as producers are looking for measures to control cost and to strengthen market position.[11] The most important application area, in quantitative terms, is industrial and public water treatment. [12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ D'Aquino M., Teves SA. (December 1994), "Lemon juice as a natural biocide for disinfecting drinking water", Bull Pan Am Health Organ., PMID 7858646 
  2. ^ Antimicrobial properties of copper,, retrieved 20 December 2012 
  3. ^ Antimicrobial copper-alloy touch surfaces,, retrieved 20 December 2012 
  4. ^ Copper Touch Surfaces, Copper Touch Surfaces, retrieved 20 December 2012 
  5. ^ Antimicrobial copper-alloy touch surfaces,, retrieved 20 December 2012 
  6. ^ A. Samuel (22 July 2011), Chilean subway protected with Antimicrobial Copper,, retrieved 20 December 2012 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Chilean Subway Protected with Antimicrobial Copper" (PDF). 
  9. ^ Directive 98/8/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 1998 concerning the placing of biocidal products on the market (PDF), retrieved 20 December 2012 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Market Report: World Biocide Market, Acmite Market Intelligence 
  12. ^ Ceresana, Market Study Biocides, September 2012,


External links[edit]