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What are antimicrobials?

Did you know many antimicrobial products are considered pesticides? Because they are designed to kill pests, specifically germs or microorganisms, they are considered pesticides. Antimicrobials come in a wide variety of formulations including toilet bowl sanitizers, swimming pool chemicals, and bleach. Antimicrobial pesticides are important tools in public health because we use them in hospitals, schools, bathrooms, and food preparation areas to prevent the spread of germs that cause diseases.

Antimicrobial pesticides are categorized based on the type of microbial pest for which they were designed to be effective. Some products are intended to control the growth of pests like algae or odor-causing bacteria that do not pose a threat to human health. Other products are designed specifically to sanitize, disinfect, or sterilize surfaces of microbes that are potentially harmful such as those in blood or bodily fluids.

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Note: Some similar products are not antimicrobial pesticides! Some antimicrobial products are used to prevent infection by inhibiting the growth of microorganisms within or on living things. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are one example. These products are considered drugs and are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If the product label includes an EPA registration number, then EPA regulates the product. If the product label includes "Drug Facts" then FDA regulates the product. If the product label doesn't contain either of these elements, it may be a cleaner. Neither the EPA nor the FDA regulate cleaners because they do not claim to kill any pest or prevent any disease.

If you need assistance, contact NPIC at 800-858-7378 and one of our trained pesticide specialists will assist you in identifying who regulates your product.

Last updated November 07, 2023