Pesticide Registration

What are Antimicrobial Pesticides?

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Antimicrobial pesticides are substances or mixtures of substances used to destroy or suppress the growth of harmful microorganisms whether bacteria, viruses, or fungi on inanimate objects and surfaces. Antimicrobial products contain about 275 different active ingredients and are marketed in many types of formulations including: sprays, liquids, concentrated powders, and gases.

Today, approximately one billion dollars each year are spent on a variety of different types of antimicrobial products. More than 4000 antimicrobial products are currently registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and sold in the marketplace. Many of these products are registered to control infectious microorganisms and thus protect public health.

Major Uses

Antimicrobial pesticides have two major uses:

  • sterilize, disinfect, sanitize, reduce, or mitigate growth or development of microbiological organisms. Some examples of antimicrobial pesticide products designed to control infectious microorganisms can be found by referring to the Antimicrobial Testing Program (ATP) web page.
  • protect inanimate objects (for example floors and walls), industrial processes or systems,  water, or other chemical substances from contamination, fouling, or deterioration caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, algae, or slime. For example, antimicrobial pesticides act as preserving agents in paints, metalworking fluids, wood supports, and many other products to prevent their deterioration.

These uses do not include certain pesticides intended for food use; but do encompass pesticides with a wide array of other uses. 

Types of Antimicrobial Products

Antimicrobial products are divided into two categories based on the type of microbial pest against which the product works:

Non-public health products

Are used to control growth of:

  • algae,
  • odor-causing bacteria,
  • bacteria which cause spoilage, deterioration or fouling of materials and microorganisms infectious only to animals. This general category includes products used in:
    • cooling towers
    • jet fuel
    • paints
    • treatments for textile and paper products.

Public health products

Are intended to control microorganisms infectious to humans in any inanimate environment. The more commonly used public health antimicrobial products include the following:

  • Sterilizers (Sporicides): Used to destroy or eliminate all forms of microbial life including:
    •  fungi,
    • viruses,
    • all forms of bacteria and their spores.

Spores are considered to be the most difficult form of microorganism to destroy. Therefore, EPA considers the term Sporicide to be synonymous with "Sterilizer."

Sterilization is critical to infection control and is widely used in hospitals on medical and surgical, instruments and equipment. Types of sterilizers include:

  • steam under pressure (autoclaving)
  • dry heat ovens (used primarily for sterilization of medical instruments)
  • low temperature gas (ethylene oxide) (used primarily for sterilization of medical instruments)
  • liquid chemical sterilants (used primarily for delicate instruments which cannot withstand high temperature and gases).
  • Disinfectants: Used on hard, nonliving surfaces and objects to destroy or irreversibly inactivate infectious fungi and bacteria but not necessarily their spores. Disinfectant products are divided into two major types:
    • hospital type disinfectants are the most critical to infection control and are used on:
      • medical and dental instruments
      • floors, walls
      • bed linens
      • toilet seats, and other surfaces
    • general use disinfectants are the major source of products used in:
      • households
      • swimming pools
      • water purifiers
  • Sanitizers: Used to reduce, but not necessarily eliminate, microorganisms from the inanimate environment to levels considered safe as determined by public health codes or regulations. Sanitizers include:
    • food contact products - These products are important because they are used on sites where consumable food products are placed and stored. Sanitizing rinses for surfaces such as:
      • dishes and cooking utensils
      • equipment and utensils found in:
        • dairies
        • food-processing plants
        • eating and drinking establishments
    • non-food contact products - Non-food contact surface sanitizers include:
      • carpet sanitizers
      • air sanitizers
      • laundry additives
      • in-tank toilet bowl sanitizers.
  • Antiseptics and Germicides: Used to prevent infection and decay by inhibiting the growth of microorganisms. Because these products are used in or on living humans or animals, they are considered drugs and are thus approved and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

See Also:

Antimicrobial Pesticide Registration