Products such as insecticides, disinfectants (for hands, swimming pools, surfaces), rodenticides, mosquito repellents, anti-mould products, algaecides, wood protection products, etc., are pesticides which are referred to as biocides.
Table of contents
Biocides are not harmless products. They are pesticides which, as their name suggests, kill life (bio = life, cide = kill). Biocides fight harmful organisms by means of a chemical or biological action, repelling them, rendering them harmless or destroying them.
By their nature, biocides all present a significant risk to our health to a certain extent (in particular that of pregnant women and children) and to our environment (see the section "sustainable use").
Biocides are to be registered in order to be placed on the Belgian market.
The Federal Environmental Inspection controls the placing on the market of biocides.
Before buying such products, ask yourself whether you really need them.
Biocides are pesticides, just like plant protection products.
Biocides are divided into 4 Groups (action) and 22 Product Types (target).
The official European definition of a biocide (European Regulation 528/2012) is:
“- any substance or mixture, in the form in which it is supplied to the user, consisting of, containing or generating one or more active substances, with the intention of destroying, deterring, rendering harmless, preventing the action of, or otherwise exerting a controlling effect on, any harmful organism by any means other than mere physical or mechanical action,
- any substance or mixture, generated from substances or mixtures which do not themselves fall under the first indent, to be used with the intention of destroying, deterring, rendering harmless, preventing the action of, or otherwise exerting a controlling effect on, any harmful organism by any means other than mere physical or mechanical action.
A treated article that has a primary biocidal function shall be considered a biocidal product."
There are 4 GROUPS of biocides depending on their action category and 22 TYPES of biocides depending on their target.
This breakdown is the result of European regulation (Biocides Regulation 528/2012), and is applicable throughout the European Union.
ECHA website: Groups and types of biocidal products
Group 1: Disinfectants
Group 2: Preservatives
Group 4: Other biocidal products
Biocides must come with a registration approved by the Federal Minister for Environment, in order to be placed on the Belgian market.
Every biocide registered in Belgium comes with a report granted by the Minister for Environment on the basis of the advice provided by the "Advisory Committee on Biocidal Products". The report is the official document which determines the conditions for the placing on the market and use of a biocidal product. The reports are public and are accessible via the list of authorised biocidal products.
Furthermore, every biocidal product comes with a unique and specific number. This number is mentioned in the report and can appear in several forms: BE-REG-XXXXX or XXXXB or BE20XX-XXXX or NOTIFXXX or XX/IP. The number must absolutely be indicated on the label of the biocide.
Depending on the risks that it poses to the user, a biocide is either placed in the free circuit or the closed circuit.
A biocide is also classified according to its user, who might either be the general public or professionals. Some biocides are intended for both groups.
The registration report specifies the user and mentions the conditions to be respected (registration reports are public - see "list of authorised biocidal products")
Classification according to risk
Given that some biocidal products present a high risk, it is unreasonable to make them accessible for the general public, which is why the closed circuit has been created. These products are exclusively reserved to persons registered with our FPS. As a matter of fact, these biocides have been recognised as meeting criteria that have been specifically, and legally defined during scientific assessments, or their use requires the wearing of personal protection means other than gloves. See the page Closed circuit
Classification according to the user: General public and/or professional
Biocides which are in the free circuit can be used by either:
- the general public
- the general public and professionals complying with strict conditions
The conditions of use are specified in the registration reports which are accessible via the list of authorised biocidal products.
Every person responsible for the registration of a biocide to be placed on the market must take the necessary measures in order for the biocide to be classified, packaged and labelled in compliance with the law.
Biocides which are likely to be mixed up with food, beverages or animal feed must be packaged so as to reduce the risk of such errors to a minimum. If these products are accessible to the general public, they should contain components intended to prevent ingestion (such as bittering agents) and, specifically, they should not be attractive to children! The person responsible for placing a biocide on the Belgian market must ensure that the labelling does not mislead the consumer regarding the risk to human health, animal health or the environment. It should also not be misleading regarding its efficacy.
Biocides must be supplied intact in their original packaging, and must not be fractionated. It is prohibited to modify the original packaging or the label.
The label must include, in a legible and indelible manner:
- The name of the biocide;
- The contact details (name and address) of the authorisation holder;
- The identification of every active substance and its concentration in metric units (for example: Permethrin, 2.2 g/l);
- The registration number (BE-REG-XXXXX) = authorised in Belgium;
- The user categories (general public, professionals) to which the biocide is limited;
- The hazard pictograms, the hazard phrases, the R (Risk) and S (Security) statements. Caution, if the new CLP regulation is used, the R and S phrases are replaced by: the hazard phrases (H phrases), precaution phrases (P phrases) and the precautionary statements(hazard or warning).
- Any nano-material contained in the products and any possible specific associated risks, as well as the term "nano" in inverted commas after any indication of nano-materials;
- The authorised uses of the biocidal product;
- The phrase "Read attached idirections before use", and, as the case may be, warnings intended for vulnerable groups, when the product is accompanied by an explanatory note;
- The telephone number of the National Centre for the Prevention and Treatment of Intoxication;
- If necessary, the user categories to which the biocide is limited;
- In the case of biocides containing micro-organisms, the EU labelling requirements concerning the protection of workers against the risks associated with exposure to biological agents at work (Directive 2000/54/EC);
- The type of formulation/preparation (liquid, pellets, powder, etc.);
- The directions of use - the user manual, the application/administration frequency and the dose to be applied expressed in metric units in clear and understandable terms for the users, for every use anticipated by the terms of the registration;
- The directions on any possible direct or indirect unwanted side effects as well as first aid instructions;
- The directions for a completely safe disposal of the biocidal product and its packaging, including, if necessary, a prohibition to reuse the packaging;
- The number or designation of the batch of the preparation and the expiry date under normal storage conditions;
- If necessary, the time scale required to obtain the biocidal effect, the interval that should be respected between applications of the biocidal product, or between its application and the subsequent use of the treated product, or the subsequent access of people or animals to the area where the biocidal product was used, including directions on the decontamination means and measures and the necessary ventilation period of the treated areas; directions on the appropriate cleaning of materials; directions on precautionary measures to be taken during its use and transport;
- If necessary, information on any risk specific to the environment, specifically in order to protect non-target organisms and to avoid water contamination;
For all the points in italics, if required due to the size or function of the biocidal product, information can be specified on the packaging or on an explanatory note attached to the packaging as an integral part of it.
The following claims are PROHIBITED on the label: "low-risk biocidal product", "non-toxic", "not damaging to health", "natural", "environmentally friendly", etc., or any other similar claim.
Any kind of advertising for biocidal products implies obligations and prohibitions.
Advertising for biocides must be in compliance with strict, legally defined rules.
Any advertising, in whatever form, for unauthorised biocidal products is prohibited.
All advertising must include the phrases "Use biocidal products with caution; "Read the label and the information relating to the product before use." These phrases must clearly stand out in the advertising, and must be easily readable.
Advertisers may replace the word "biocides" in the obligatory phrases with a clear reference to the type of product targeted by the advertising.
Advertising for biocides must not deceive the user with regards to the risks to human health, animal health or the environment, nor to the efficacy of the product.
Publications or technical documents intended for biocides sellers and users must be related to the advertising.
Advertising for biocides may not contain the claims: "low-risk biocidal product", "non-toxic", "not damaging to health", "natural", "environmentally friendly", etc., or any other similar indication.
When a biocide is registrated for placement on the market, it is also assigned a score which corresponds to hazard marks calculated on the basis of risk/hazard category phrases (H phrase).
The hazard marks of a biocide are expressed as a score which is mentioned in its registration report.
This score then enables the calculation of the annual contribution for that product. In fact, pursuant to the Royal Decree of 4 April 2019, authorisation holders must declare to the FPS every year by 31 January the quantities of biocides that they have placed on the Belgian market in the previous year. The FPS thereafter calculates the amount of the annual contributions to be paid, based on both the score and the quantity declared.