Biocides: The basics
- used to protect people and animals from 'germs', to preserve manufactured goods, to protect industrial processes and to stop pests like rats or cockroaches
- used by workers in a wide variety of industries to control organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, insects and animals
- used by members of the public in and around the home
- controlled under the GB Biocidal Products Regulation (GB BPR) in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) to make sure that when they are used properly, they do not harm people, pets or the wider environment
- control harmful or unwanted organisms through a chemical or biological action – common examples are disinfectants, wood preservatives and insect repellents
- do not have to kill the harmful organism as the law also includes products that control or stop the organism's harmful action – repellents are an example of biocidal products that do not kill
- will typically be a mixture of chemicals including the 'active substance' (the one that has the controlling effect on the harmful organism)
- could be 100% active substance with no other components
- could be articles that have been impregnated with the active substance, such as disinfecting wipes
- might not be a chemical – active substances can be bacteria, viruses or other micro-organisms
- might not contain an active substance – it could be created when the product is used, either from mixing the product with another chemical, or from a reaction with the air or moisture – this is called 'in-situ generation' and is still covered by the law, even if no products are supplied and the biocide is generated from everyday things like seawater or the air itself (such as ozone generated from oxygen in the air by a machine and used as a disinfectant)
GB BPR also has requirements for articles that have been treated with biocidal products, but which are not themselves biocidal products (such as wood that has been treated with a wood preservative to protect the wood from decay). Find out more about Treated Articles.
GB BPR (the law) defines a 'biocidal product' as
" - any substance or mixture, in the form in which it is supplied to the user, consisting of, containing or generating one or more active substances, with the intention of destroying, deterring, rendering harmless, preventing the action of, or otherwise exerting a controlling effect on, any harmful organism by any means other than mere physical or mechanical action,
- any substance or mixture, generated from substances or mixtures which do not themselves fall under the first indent, to be used with the intention of destroying, deterring, rendering harmless, preventing the action of, or otherwise exerting a controlling effect on, any harmful organism by any means other than mere physical or mechanical action
A treated article that has a primary biocidal function shall be considered a biocidal product."
22 Product Types
GB BPR groups biocidal products into 22 product types that are split up into 4 main groups. The product types and number are often given as acronyms in documents, so 'PT8' is 'Product Type 8 – Wood Preservatives'.
|MAIN GROUP 1: Disinfectants
These product-types exclude cleaning products that are not intended to have a biocidal effect, such as washing liquids and powders.
|1||Human hygiene||Biocidal products used for human hygiene purposes, applied on or in contact with human skin or scalps for the primary purpose of disinfecting the skin or scalp.|
|2||Disinfectants and algaecides not intended for direct application to humans or animals||Products used for the disinfection of surfaces, materials, equipment and furniture which are not used for direct contact with food or feeding stuffs.
Usage areas include, inter alia, swimming pools, aquariums, bathing and other waters; air conditioning systems; and walls and floors in private, public, and industrial areas and in other areas for professional activities.
Products used for disinfection of air, water not used for human or animal consumption, chemical toilets, waste water, hospital waste and soil.
Products used as algaecides for treatment of swimming pools, aquariums and other waters and for remedial treatment of construction materials.
Products used to be incorporated in textiles, tissues, masks, paints and other articles or materials with the purpose of producing treated articles with disinfecting properties.
|3||Veterinary hygiene||Products used for veterinary hygiene purposes such as disinfectants, disinfecting soaps, oral or corporal hygiene products or with anti-microbial function.
Products used to disinfect the materials and surfaces associated with the housing or transportation of animals.
|4||Food and feed area||Products used for the disinfection of equipment, containers, consumption utensils, surfaces or pipework associated with the production, transport, storage or consumption of food or feed (including drinking water) for humans and animals.
Products used to be incorporated into materials which may enter into contact with food.
|5||Drinking water||Products used for the disinfection of drinking water for both humans and animals.|
|MAIN GROUP 2: Preservatives
Unless otherwise stated these product-types include only products to prevent microbial and algal development.
|6||Preservatives for products during storage||Products used for the preservation of manufactured products, other than foodstuffs, feedingstuffs, cosmetics or medicinal products or medical devices by the control of microbial deterioration to ensure their shelf life. Products used as preservatives for the storage or use of rodenticide, insecticide or other baits.|
|7||Film preservatives||Products used for the preservation of films or coatings by the control of microbial deterioration or algal growth in order to protect the initial properties of the surface of materials or objects such as paints, plastics, sealants, wall adhesives, binders, papers, art works.|
|8||Wood preservatives||Products used for the preservation of wood, from and including the saw-mill stage, or wood products by the control of wood-destroying or wood-disfiguring organisms, including insects.
This product-type includes both preventive and curative products.
|9||Fibre, leather, rubber and polymerised materials preservatives||Products used for the preservation of fibrous or polymerised materials, such as leather, rubber or paper or textile products by the control of microbiological deterioration.
This product-type includes biocidal products which antagonise the settlement of micro-organisms on the surface of materials and therefore hamper or prevent the development of odour and/or offer other kinds of benefits.
|10||Construction material preservatives||Products used for the preservation of masonry, composite materials, or other construction materials other than wood by the control of microbiological, and algal attack.|
|11||Preservatives for liquid-cooling and processing systems||Products used for the preservation of water or other liquids used in cooling and processing systems by the control of harmful organisms such as microbes, algae and mussels.
Products used for the disinfection of drinking water or of water for swimming pools are not included in this product-type.
|12||Slimicides||Products used for the prevention or control of slime growth on materials, equipment and structures, used in industrial processes, such as on wood and paper pulp and porous sand strata in oil extraction.|
|13||Working or cutting fluid preservatives||Products to control microbial deterioration in fluids used for working or cutting metal, glass or other materials.|
|MAIN GROUP 3: Pest control|
|14||Rodenticides||Products used for the control of mice, rats or other rodents, by means other than repulsion or attraction.|
|15||Avicides||Products used for the control of birds, by means other than repulsion or attraction.|
|16||Molluscicides, vermicides and products to control other invertebrates||Products used for the control of molluscs, worms and invertebrates not covered by other product-types, by means other than repulsion or attraction.|
|17||Piscicides||Products used for the control of fish, by means other than repulsion or attraction.|
|18||Insecticides, acaricides and products to control other arthropods||Products used for the control of arthropods ( insects, arachnids and crustaceans), by means other than repulsion or attraction.|
|19||Repellents and attractants||Products used to control harmful organisms (invertebrates such as fleas, vertebrates such as birds, fish, rodents), by repelling or attracting, including those that are used for human or veterinary hygiene either directly on the skin or indirectly in the environment of humans or animals.|
|20||Control of other vertebrates||Products used for the control of vertebrates other than those already covered by the other product-types of this main group, by means other than repulsion or attraction.|
|MAIN GROUP 4: Other biocidal products|
|21||Antifouling products||Products used to control the growth and settlement of fouling organisms (microbes and higher forms of plant or animal species) on vessels, aquaculture equipment or other structures used in water.|
|22||Embalming and taxidermist fluids||Products used for the disinfection and preservation of human or animal corpses, or parts thereof.|
Not biocidal products
GB BPR excludes:
- the non-biocidal uses of products and active substances – this is where a known active substance is used in other products but not for biocidal purposes, for example:
- the use of an essential oil as a fragrance rather than as an insect repellent
- products that only work by physical means – this is where their mode of action does not involve chemical or biological activity, for example:
- fly swats
- UV fly killers
- sticky boards for rodents
- some products that meet the definition of a biocidal product but are regulated under other legislation in GB, for example:
- products to control algae, snails and slugs to protect plants or to protect trees or plants from damage may be regulated as plant protection products
- products to disinfect human skin before an operation, to treat disease or anti-lice shampoo may be regulated ashuman medicines
- products applied to animals to kill fleas, ticks etc may be regulated as veterinary medicines
- products to disinfect articles, instruments, apparatus or machines that are used in the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of illness or disease (for example, disinfectant wipes used on stethoscopes) may be regulated as medical devices
- other products applied to human skin (for example anti-dandruff shampoo) may be regulated as cosmetics
A full list of the exempting law is given in Article 2 of GB BPR.
If you think your product is regulated by any of the exempting law, you need to check with the relevant GB authority for that law for confirmation.
Other things to consider
- Where a product has dual use, for example as a biocidal product to kill insects in the home and as a plant protection product to kill insects on garden plants, then the requirements of both sets of law will apply.
- Is the biocidal product being made available on the GB market?
Making available on the market means any supply of a biocidal product, whether in return for payment or free of charge, at all stages of the supply chain. Some examples of this could include:
- manufacturer to distributor
- distributor to retail store
- retail store to user
If a biocidal product is being made available on the GB market it must comply with GB BPR.
- Are you supplying food to repel flies, insects etc or attract flies, insects, rodents etc to a trap?
If the food stuff is supplied with the intention that it will repel flies, insects etc or attract flies, insects, rodents etc (eg to a trap) it would be a biocidal product.
If the person using a trap buys strawberry jam from the supermarket to use in the trap (eg to attract wasps to the trap) this would not be a biocidal product as the jam has been supplied by the supermarket as food to be eaten, not as an attractant to add to a trap.
If you supply a wasp trap pre-baited with jam, you are supplying a biocidal product.
If you just sell the wasp trap and the user buys jam from the supermarket, there is no supply of a biocidal product.
Still not sure?
For most products, the question of scope is relatively straightforward. However, sometimes there will be complex issues where having a specific decision on scope would help industry understand how the regulations apply to their kind of product.
GB BPR provides a way for the Secretary of State (working with the Scottish and Welsh administrations) to issue a decision on such scope issues – these are commonly called 'Article 3(3) Decisions' as that is the relevant article in the legal text.
Where the Secretary of State has made an Article 3(3) scope decision, details will be published by HSE. HSE also publishes details of existing Article 3(3) decisions that had been taken by the European Commission prior to the end of the Transition Period following the UK leaving the EU, and which remain valid in GB.
If a decision or guidance doesn't exist, contact HSE for advice.