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Biocides: The basics

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A biocidal product is one which controls harmful or unwanted organisms through chemical or biological means. Common examples of such products are disinfectants, wood preservatives and insect repellents.

Biocides are used by workers in a wide variety of industries to control organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, insects and animals. They can also be used by members of the public. We are all likely to come into contact with biocides, or products that have been treated with them – whether in the workplace, shops or leisure premises, or in our own homes and gardens. If you think you have been affected by exposure to biocides, you should consider reporting your exposure.

It is important that there are safeguards to ensure that products containing biocides can be used without causing harm to people, the environment or animals. HSE – as the UK Competent Authority for biocides – runs two regulatory schemes that assess the safety of such products and the active substances within them, and puts conditions on the use of these products. These schemes are the Biocidal Products Regulations and the Control of Pesticides Regulations.

If you are unsure whether these Regulations apply to you, or what action you must take if they do, you should find out more about The law.

Whether you are visiting this site because you have a question on the above regulatory schemes, or want to know what products are currently approved for use, a good starting point is our Frequently asked questions page. You will find answers to some of the questions commonly asked by industry and the public, about these and many other issues.

Updated 2020-07-27