Uses of Antimicrobials | Chemical Safety Facts

Antimicrobials

Antimicrobial pesticides are substances that disinfect, sanitize or otherwise mitigate the growth of microorganisms, or protect inanimate objects, industrial processes, surfaces, water or other chemical substances from contamination or deterioration caused by germs and bacteria.

Every day, products containing antimicrobial ingredients help keep our homes, offices and bodies clean and hygienic. By knocking out disease-causing bacteria, antimicrobial chemicals help keep people from getting sick.

A variety of different chemical ingredients safely and effectively address these microbes. These ingredients, found in soaps, hand sanitizers and toothpaste, are thoroughly tested to determine their safety for humans, animals and the environment.

Uses & Benefits

Antimicrobial products have a wide range of uses:

  • One recent study indicated that personal care products such as soaps, body washes and hand sanitizers that contain antimicrobial chemicals are more effective at limiting bacteria than soaps without antimicrobial agents – this 2011 study found that washing hands with an antimicrobial soap reduced bacteria on skin at a greater rate than non-antimicrobial soap.
  • Triclosan, an antimicrobial compound, has been found to promote oral health and aid in the fight against gingivitis when added to toothpaste.
  • Kitchen counters, office desks, bathroom sinks, and other high-traffic areas in homes and offices may accumulate germs that can make people sick. Cleaning products without antibacterial/antimicrobial ingredients will clean the surface, but will not kill the germs on it.
  • Antimicrobial pesticides help to slow the growth of human pathogenic microorganisms and are used in food processing plants, dairies, breweries, poultry houses and other animal feeding operations, hospitals and medical and dental clinics and offices, municipal drinking water and water treatment facilities, swimming pools and spas, schools, day-care centers, public access facilities and homes.

Safety Information

Antimicrobial products are regulated by various government agencies, depending on the application in which they are used:

Regulation of antimicrobial products by the federal government is thorough and encompassing. For instance, antimicrobials regulated by EPA must submit a product label and data on chemistry, toxicology and efficacy, and manufacturers must obtain an EPA registration prior to marketing an antimicrobial product. The label contains a list of the active ingredients, directions for product use, and precautionary and handling information. Among other things, the decision to register a product is based on whether that product will perform the specific function for which it is being registered without causing adverse effects on the environment.

Answering Questions

Does the use of hand soap or hand sanitizer products containing antimicrobials create antimicrobial-resistant bacteria?

Antimicrobials are used in home, office and healthcare settings to control bacteria and help prevent people from getting sick. With respect to personal care products, there has been no credible, scientifically supported link between the use of antimicrobial soaps and the development of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.