Relevance to supported housing providers
1. One of the expectations of the Government’s Supported Housing: National Statement of Expectations (NSE) (England) is that accommodation should be free from serious hazards as assessed by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
2. Biocides are one of the 29 potential hazard categories identified in the HHSRS. Supported housing providers should ensure that their accommodation does not expose residents to hazardous chemicals from timber treatments or mould growth treatments
What are biocides?
3. Biocides are substances or mixtures that are intended to prevent, deter, render harmless, or otherwise exert a controlling effect on any harmful organism by chemical or biological means. They act by limiting the growth or survival of harmful organisms, such as pests, fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
Examples of biocides in the home
4. Examples include:
- wood preservatives – chemicals that are used to treat wood to protect it from decay, fungi, and pests.
- mould and mildew removers – products designed to eliminate and prevent mould and mildew growth in damp areas of the home like bathrooms.
- pesticides/herbicides – chemicals designed to kill or repel insects, rodents, weeds, fungi, and other pests. Common household examples include roach sprays, ant baits, and rodent poisons.
- disinfectants – like bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and quaternary ammonium compounds are commonly used in homes to disinfect surfaces.
Detrimental effects on human health
5. Biocides are, by nature, designed to inhibit or kill living organisms. Therefore, they can potentially be harmful to humans if used improperly, ingested, inhaled in large amounts, or come into direct contact with the skin.
- Toxicity – some can be toxic if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.
- Respiratory Irritation – inhalation of certain biocides can cause respiratory irritation, and in some cases, prolonged exposure can lead to more serious respiratory conditions.
- Allergic Reactions – some people may have allergic reactions to certain biocides, leading to symptoms like skin rashes, breathing difficulties, or eye irritation.
- Environmental Concerns – many biocides can have detrimental effects on the environment, especially if they enter water systems and harm aquatic life.
- Antibiotic resistance – overuse or misuse of some biocides can contribute to the development of resistant strains of bacteria.
Recommendations for use
6. In conclusion, while biocides play an essential role in maintaining hygiene and preventing infestations in the home, they should be used judiciously and according to the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure safety.
7. It’s always recommended to keep them out of the reach of children and pets, use them in well-ventilated areas, and avoid unnecessary exposure.