Biocides are pesticides that are used commonly and often necessarily. They are used as disinfectants to prevent diseases from spreading in hospitals and during livestock transport. In addition, biocides are indispensable when it comes to controlling populations of rats and other pests. At the same time, however, biocides may be harmful to people, animals and the environment. That is why it is important that biocides are used correctly and for their intended purpose. RIVM has itemised the risk factors involved in the use of biocides. The recommendations in this report will help enforcement authorities, policymakers and researchers to eliminate factors that might lead to risks during the use of biocides.

Biocides used almost everywhere

Biocides are pesticides that are used almost everywhere. Well-known types of biocides are disinfectants and those used to control populations of pests (such as rats or insects). Additionally, biocides are used as preservatives in materials (such as wood), liquids (such as paints) and tissues and to control algae growth on paving stones or vessels. Various enforcement authorities check whether biocides are being used correctly.

Biocides can also be harmful

Biocides can contain substances that are harmful to humans, plants and/or animals. That is why only authorised biocides may be sold and used. These biocides are safe when used as prescribed. Biocides containing the most hazardous substances can be found among the products against pests and in wood preservatives.

Always follow the instructions 

The preferred means of pest control and preservation are those that do not use biocides. If this is not possible, it is important to follow the instructions for the use of biocides closely. This will prevent biocides from having harmful effects. To give a few examples of these, cats can sustain burns if they lick biocides used for algae control, and bathing water purification tablets can cause harm when used incorrectly, among others to children. The latter mainly occurs when such tablets are used by owners of private swimming pools. Biocides used to control rat populations can be harmful to other mammals or birds, which is why they may only be used by professionals working under strict conditions.

Recommendations in this report 

Because we still lack knowledge on the volumes of biocides used in the Netherlands, it can be difficult to assess the risks. RIVM therefore recommends itemising which biocides have the potential to end up in food, drinking water, the environment and so on. RIVM also recommends that the enforcement authorities focus on performing inspections relating to those biocides containing the most hazardous substances. Furthermore, RIVM recommends paying attention to the clarity of instructions, particularly those for private use. RIVM emphasises that it is vital that professional users of biocides attend the mandatory training courses. 
RIVM conducted this exploratory study on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW). In its report, RIVM makes recommendations to enforcement authorities, researchers and policymakers.