Biocidal products are used to control unwanted organisms that are harmful to human or animal health or to the environment, or that cause damage to human activities. These harmful organisms include pests (e.g. insects, rats or mice) and microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, viruses, mould).
Biocidal products include among others:
- Insecticides (except those used for plant protection purposes which are regulated by Regulation (EU) No 1107/2009)
- Insect repellents
- Preservatives for materials such as wood, plastics and fibres
- Anti-fouling paints for the protection of ship hulls.
They play an important role in EU citizens' daily lives, for example, helping to protect against:
- Vector-borne diseases (e.g. malaria, dengue fever or chikungunya)
- Food-borne diseases (e.g. salmonellosis, listeriosis)
- Hospital-acquired infections (e.g. MRSA).
They are also widely used in materials such as plastics, paints, textiles, wood, etc. to protect these materials against microbial, fungi or insect decay.
However, because of their intrinsic properties, biocidal products can pose risks to humans, animals and the environment. As a result, the EU has set up strict rules and procedures to minimise these risks.
A framework to limit the risks
The EU provides an EU-wide framework and harmonised rules among EU countries to ensure that risks are properly assessed before biocidal products are placed on the market. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) provides technical and scientific assistance to support the European Commission and EU countries in carrying out the different processes set out in the Regulation.
Before active substances can be used in biocidal products they need to be assessed and approved for such use at EU level.
To be placed on the market, a product must be shown to be safe for human health, animal health and the environment. The product must also be proven to be effective for its intended uses.
The Regulation contains provisions which apply not only to biocidal products but to articles and mixtures that have been treated with, or incorporate, a biocidal product.