Getting Ed-Ucated: Using Biocide and Antimicrobials
Ed Jones is CodeBlue’s Vice President of Education & Operational Excellence. He has over 30 years experience in the industry and his expertise has helped develop the standards that the industry uses today.
This article is the first in the “Getting Ed-Ucated” series. The goal of the series is to bring simplicity to complex topics.
An antimicrobial is a substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms, whereas a biocide is any substance that kills living organisms. These two terms are used interchangeably in the water damage mitigation industry. These chemicals need to be carefully controlled and only used when necessary, for some people could have adverse reactions if they come into contact with the chemicals. In the past, many restoration contractors sprayed antimicrobials on affected materials, no matter what the category of water loss. Also, many technicians don’t follow label directions when mixing solutions to spray in occupied spaces.
After the publication of the ANSI standards (S500) in 2006, it was stressed that restorers should weigh the benefits of using antimicrobials (biocides) against the risks associated with their use. The standards state that these chemicals should not be applied indiscriminately.
Antimicrobials are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and in some jurisdictions the applicators must be licensed, certified and specially trained. The industry standards give the following requirements and precautions if antimicrobials or biocides are to be used on water damage mitigation projects:
• Restorers should discuss the risks of using antimicrobials or biocides with customers before their use, provide them with product label information and MSDS sheets and obtain an informed consent in writing from the customer before use.
• Restorers should inquire about pre-existing health conditions that might require special precautions and advise customers to remove children, animals and anyone with compromised health.
• Antimicrobials or biocides should be applied with low pressure sprayers with jet orifices of .06 or greater to reduce air suspension time and the potential for inhalation
• Only one application of antimicrobial or biocide is required on category 2 or 3 water losses after the affected materials have been thoroughly cleaned.
Because of the potential risks to the policyholder -and to adhere to industry standards- CodeBlue’s Policy is to not authorize the use of antimicrobial or biocide on Category 1 water losses.
Our first responsibility is to the health, safety and welfare of occupants, which includes informing them of the risks and benefits of using some of these chemicals. We are the personal advocate for the policyholder and it is our responsibility to look out for their welfare during the water damage mitigation process by serving as their subject matter expert.