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What are Biocides?

10/8/2012 12:57:55 PM | by Anonymous


Used to deter, kill, or exert a controlling effect on bacteria or any harmful organisms by chemical or biological means, a biocide is a chemical substance or microorganism that can be found in several different everyday products, from disinfectants and antiseptics to preservative. Commonly used in medical, agricultural and industrial uses, biocidal products can have varying uses depending on the application. For example chlorine in industrial use, is used as a short-life biocide to treat water but as a disinfectant in swimming pools. Most biocides are man-made however a class of natural biocides also does exist. These biocides are derived from plants and bacteria, namely being brassica oleracea and clostridium botulinum bacteria amongst a few others.


Pesticides and antimicrobials fall under the category of biocides. Pesticides can be fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, algaecides and rodenticides. The purpose of pesticides is usually to prevent or eliminate unwanted bacteria or substances. For example insecticides are used to repel or kill unwanted insects in an area. On the other antimicrobial are also used to kill or prevent substances, however in this case, these substances are microorganisms. Germicides, antibiotics, antivirals, spermicides and antifungals fall under the category of antimicrobials. These substances keep out and eliminate microorganism that exist at a much smaller scale as compared to regular insects or other unwanted substances.


Aside from being used as disinfectants in pesticides and antimicrobials, biocides can also be added to some liquids in order to prevent them from having a biological infestation and growth. One example of such an application can be adding small amounts of quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) to pool water or industrial water. These waters can be prone to being infected by algae, and therefore the quats act as algaecides, preventing the buildup of algae in the water and keeping it clean. Also, it can be impractical and dangerous to store and use chlorine gas for water treatment, therefore alternative methods are used to release chlorine into the water. Hypochlorite solutions are used to release chlorine and other compounds such as sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione sometimes also known as "dichlor", and trichloro-s-triazinetrione, sometimes also referred to as "trichlor", into the water gradually. These compounds can be in the form of tablets or powder and are used in small amounts, being released into the pool water or industrial water systems. Once released, the chlorine atoms in these substances are able to hydrolyze from the rest of the molecules in the water, forming hypochlorous acid. These acids act as general biocides that have the ability to kill germs, microorganisms and algae amongst several other unwanted substances.


As biocides are used for the destruction of life, they can pose a threat to human health and welfare. If not used carefully, these substances can pose a great threat to health and any other forms of life around, where they are used. A user should use biocides responsibly and take the required precautions when using this substance. Protective clothing and gloves should be used by the user when using biocides. Also, wherever biocides are applied, they can effects on the surrounding environment, sometimes causing great damage to the natural environment. For example, anti-fouling paints that are used on marine vessels can harm the marine life in the sea. Such paints that utilize organic tin compounds such as TBT have shown to have severe long-lasting damages on marine eco-systems. It is therefore that many countries have banned the use of these substances on marine vessels, be they commercial or recreational. However some naval vessels still do make use of these substances. As the paint would be on the exterior of the vessels, it would come in contact with the water, causing it to get infected and thus casing damage to the marine life. A user should find out the regulations and the right ways to use the substance. If it is still not a plausible option, the user should seek alternatives. Disposal of this substance should also follow safety measures and carried out in a proper way.

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