Regulation EC 528/2012, which came into force on 1 September 2013, concerning the making available on the market and use of biocidal products. This document does not apply only to substances identified as biocides, but also deals with treated articles.

What is a biocide?

"Active substances and preparations containing one or more active substances, put up in the form in which they are supplied to the user, intended to destroy, deter, render harmless, prevent the action of, or otherwise exert a controlling effect on any harmful organism by chemical or biological means." (Art. 2 of European Directive 98/8/EC, enforced by law in Italy with Italian Law No. 174/2000)

These are products used as "non-agricultural" disinfectants, disinfestants, preservatives and pesticides, to eliminate, to render innocuous or to prevent the action of an organism hazardous to man, animals, materials and consumer goods (excluding food for which specific products are used). They also include a wide range of products used for the preservation of goods and materials as well as for public and personal health. Some of these have been well-known in Italy for years as "medical-surgical devices" (disinfectants, insect repellents, insecticides, rodenticides for domestic and civil use).

Biocides include:
• Products to combat the action or organisms and micro-organisms able to cause significant damages to goods and products of various types (for ex.: wood preservatives; fibre, leather, rubber and polymerised materials preservatives; preservatives for liquids used in cooling systems; anti-fouling products for boats);
• Products aimed at limiting the action and the spread of micro-organisms hazardous to human and animal health (for ex.: surface disinfectants for materials and equipment; air conditioning system disinfectants; human and veterinary hygiene disinfectants);
Products for hazardous pest control (for ex.: products used for the control of rodents and other hazardous animals, insecticides and acaricides for domestic and civil use, repellents).

Although the use of biocides is aimed to guarantee the well-being of man and the preservation of many products, the chemical substances they contain can have harmful effects on the environment and the human health.

In particular, the active substances contained in biocides, that are the substances that exert their toxic effect on the species they fight, can damage other organisms that constitute, in some cases, essential elements in ecosystems. Moreover, their dispersion in the environment can involve accumulation in the biota and exposed environmental compartments (surface water, groundwater, soil, and air).

SOURCE: Ministry of the Environment.