The Invisible Shield Exploring the World of Biocides

Team Chemical Market

30 Apr 2024


In our intricate world, we need to safeguard humanity from the threats of microbial foes. Biocidal products play a pivotal role in this accomplishment to control, mitigate, or eradicate harmful organisms. These can include bacteria, fungi, algae, viruses, and other microorganisms. Governed by Biocide regulations, these products find applications in disinfectants, preservatives, pesticides, and anti-fouling agents. This article delineates some important Types of Biocides and their applications,  excluding those used in agriculture, namely pesticides and herbicides.  


The primary objective of Biocidal products is to prevent the growth and proliferation of unwanted organisms that can pose a risk to human health, animal health, or the environment. Biocides manifest in various forms including liquids, solids, gases, and impregnated material.  Below are descriptions      pertinent to important sectors in which they are utilized:
  • Healthcare

    Alcohol-based, chlorine-based, and Quaternary ammonium compounds are employed to disinfect surfaces.  They prevent the spread of infection through surfaces of medical instruments, equipment, etc in clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare settings. Alcohol-based sanitizers were extensively used during COVID-19 to curb the virus transmission.

    Surgical instruments including gloves require a high degree of sterilization to ensure they are free of harmful microorganisms. Ethylene oxide and hydrogen peroxide are commonly employed extending to certain critical pharmaceutical products.

  • Water Treatment

    Biocides such as  Chlorine, Chlorine - dioxide, and ozone are deployed for disinfecting drinking water, wastewater, and water used in swimming pools. Precise control of Biocides in water treatment is crucial especially in swimming pools, to prevent eye irritation. Excessive chlorine levels may render drinking water unpalatable.

    Another significant area is the ubiquitous market for packaged drinking water. Indian standards IS 13428 ( Packaged drinking water) and IS 14543 ( Packaged mineral water) govern microbial tolerance levels. Currently estimated at  Rs 92,000 Crores, it has witnessed a past compounded annual growth rate ( CAGR) of  13 % CAGR and is projected to grow at a future CAGR of 10.3 %.
  • Food processing

    The escalating consumption of processed foods due to lifestyle changes has led to increased  Biocides usage in this sector. Foods are susceptible to contamination during manufacturing if disinfecting protocols are overlooked. Common sanitizers include chlorine-based compounds and peracetic acid, applied to food processing equipment, food contact surfaces, and utensils.

    Additionally,  Biocides are necessary to prolong the shelf life of the processed foods. Sodium nitrite and sorbic acid are widely employed to prevent spoilage and microbial growth.
  • Manufacturing

    Water is used in numerous manufacturing industries for cooling and process requirements. A major problem is fouling on the surfaces of cooling towers, pipelines, and industrial equipment. Unwanted biological organisms such as algae, barnacles, mollusks, and bacteria attach themselves to surfaces exposed to water. This is termed as  bio-fouling. It causes a range of problems, including reduced efficiency, corrosion, and structural damage. Copper compounds and organic compounds like tributyltin (TBT) are used as anti-fouling agents. They release the Biocide gradually over time, creating a toxic environment for the organisms, which prevents them from attaching to surfaces.

    Anti-fouling agents work by either repelling fouling organisms or by inhibiting their attachment and growth on surfaces. They are commonly used in marine vessels, offshore structures, submerged equipment, and other underwater surfaces. As they are inherently toxic, their use is subject to Biocide regulations in some regions.

    Biocides like QACs, Triclosan, silver-based compounds, and Zinc Pyrithione are used in textiles. They serve as anti-microbial agents, especially in products like socks and sportswear, where odor control is important.
  • Paints

    Biocides incorporated into paints primarily aim to inhibit the growth of microbes such as bacteria, fungi, and algae on painted surfaces. They help maintain the aesthetic appeal of the paint by preventing discoloration, odors, and deterioration caused by microbial growth. Some commonly used Biocides are Isothiazolinones, organic acids like benzoic and sorbic acid, Quaternary Ammonium compounds (Quats), Triazines, Organometallic compounds containing Copper or Zinc, Pyrethroids, etc. Each one of them disrupts microbial cell functions differently,  possessing a specific mode of action and efficacy. This enables paint manufacturers to customize formulations based on intended application and environmental conditions.

Market Scenario

Typical Sectorwise Biocide usage Courtesy :

The above illustration portrays the typical usage of Biocides in various segments. This could vary from country to country in various regions. In India, some of the notable manufacturers are Sidchem, Lanxess India Pvt Ltd, Dow Chemicals, Ecolab Inc., and Troy Corporation.  As India is slated to grow at a CAGR of 7 %, there will be an increased demand in all the sectors primarily driven by awareness, better lifestyle, higher disposable incomes, etc.


The Environmental Impact of Biocides has long been a topic of discussion. Though subjective, it has resulted in some Biocides being banned in certain regions of the world. As we grapple with the implications of our inventions, we are confronted with the profound responsibility that accompanies our newfound knowledge. For in our quest to safeguard humanity from the ravages of microbial foes, we must tread with caution, mindful of the resulting unintended consequences.  


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