What Are Antimicrobial Pesticides?
- National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC):
6:30am - 4:30pm PT (M-F)
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 several formulations: 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 5000 antimicrobial products are currently registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and sold in the marketplace. Nearly 60% of antimicrobial products are registered to control infectious microorganisms in hospitals and other health care environments.
Major UsesAntimicrobial pesticides have two major uses:
- disinfect, sanitize, reduce, or mitigate growth or development of microbiological organisms;
- protect inanimate objects (for example floors and walls), industrial processes or systems, surfaces, water, or other chemical substances from contamination, fouling, or deterioration caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, algae, or slime.
These uses do not include certain pesticides intended for food use; but do encompass pesticides with a wide array of other uses. For example:
- antimicrobial pesticides act as preserving agents in paints, metalworking fluids, wood supports, and many other products to prevent their deterioration. Some examples of antimicrobial pesticide chemicals can be found by referring to the Antimicrobial Testing Program (ATP) web page.
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:
- 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
- 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:
- all forms of bacteria and their spores.
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 inanimate 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:
- 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:
- 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).