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Pesticide Registration

What are Antimicrobial Pesticides?

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Antimicrobial pesticides are substances or mixtures of substances used to destroy or suppress the growth of harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi on inanimate objects and surfaces. Antimicrobial products contain about 275 different active ingredients and are marketed in many types of formulations including: sprays, liquids, concentrated powders, and gases.

Today, approximately one billion dollars each year are spent on a variety of different types of antimicrobial products. More than 4000 antimicrobial products are currently registered with EPA and sold in the marketplace. Many of these products are registered to control infectious microorganisms and thus protect public health.

Types of Antimicrobial Products

Antimicrobial products are divided into two categories based on the type of microbial pest against which the product works:

Non-public-health products

Are used to control growth of microorganisms of economic and aesthetic significance and are not considered to be human health related:

  • algae,
  • odor-causing bacteria,
  • bacteria which cause spoilage, deterioration or fouling of materials and microorganisms infectious only to animals. This general category includes products used in:
    • cooling towers
    • jet fuel
    • paints
    • treatments for textile and paper products.

Public health products

Are intended to control microorganisms infectious to humans in any inanimate environment. The more commonly used public health antimicrobial products include the following:


Used to eliminate or destroy:

  • fungi,
  • fungal spores,
  • viruses,
  • vegetative bacteria,
  • bacterial spores.

Sterilization is critical to infection control and is widely used in hospitals on medical and surgical, instruments and equipment. Types of sterilizers include:

  • Sterilization by physical means (non-pesticidal).
    • steam under pressure (autoclaving); or
    • dry heat ovens (used primarily for sterilization of medical instruments).
  • Sterilization by chemical means (pesticidal).
    • low temperature gas (ethylene oxide) (used primarily for sterilization of medical instruments); or
    • liquid chemical sterilants (used primarily for delicate instruments which cannot withstand high temperature and gases).


Used to inactivate bacterial spores.


Used on, nonliving surfaces and objects to destroy or irreversibly inactivate infectious fungi and bacteria but not necessarily their spores. Disinfectant products are divided into two major types:

  • hospital type disinfectants are critical to infection control and are used on:
    • medical and dental instruments
    • floors
    • toilet seats, and other surfaces
  • general use disinfectants are the major source of products used in:
    • households
    • swimming pools
    • water purifiers

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Used to reduce, but not necessarily eliminate, microorganisms from the inanimate environment to levels considered safe as determined by public health codes or regulations. Sanitizers include:

  • food contact products - These products are important because they are used on sites where consumable food products are placed and stored. Sanitizing rinses are used on surfaces such as:
    • dishes and cooking utensils
    • equipment and utensils found in:
      • dairies
      • food-processing plants
      • eating and drinking establishments
  • non-food contact products - Non-food contact surface sanitizers include:
    • carpet sanitizers
    • air sanitizers
    • laundry additives
    • in-tank toilet bowl sanitizers.


  • A germicide is a substance or mixtures of substances that kill a number of microorganisms (e.g., viruses, fungi and bacteria)

See Also:

Antimicrobial Pesticide Registration

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