Biocidal products are present everywhere: they help improve hygiene, control unwanted organisms such as rats or insects, deal with fungi, etc. At the same time, the use of biocidal products poses risks to our health and the environment. The Federal Public Service for Public Health wants to
reduce these risks.
What is the Reduction Plan for biocidal products?
Biocidal products are used to deter, render harmless or destroy unwanted organisms. The best known biocidal products are insecticides, rodenticides, disinfectants, fungicides and wood preservatives.
To allow for a sustainable future for future generations, it is important that we maintain a proper balance between the social, economic and environmental impact of biocidal products. On the one hand, the economic importance and comfort provided by biocidal products cannot be denied. On the other hand, the use of biocidal products poses risks to our health and the environment.
To reduce the risks, the FPS Public Health takes the following actions:
- Proper monitoring of the biocidal products market
- Follow-up of incidents involving biocidal products
- Communication campaigns to promote the sensible and safe use
- Installation of the ’closed circuit’ for biocides, and the restriction of the use of biocidal products with high health risks to professional users only
In addition, particular attention is payed to the protection of vulnerable target groups, especially young children.
Monitoring of the biocidal products market
The FPS Public Health is responsible for monitoring the Belgian biocidal products market and it closely follows up on all developments.
Since 2013, the FPS has observed a steady growth both in the number of authorised biocidal products as well as the quantity of products sold. There are two reasons for this growth:
- the increasing use of biocidal products
- the regularisation of biocidal products previously sold without a regulatory status
In 2019, 2,407 authorised biocidal products were made available on the Belgian market. More than half of those products (54 percent) were disinfectants, with the remainder consisting largely of pesticides and protection products.
Of all authorised biocidal products made available on the Belgian market in 2018, 61 percent were only allowed to be sold to professional users. Approximately 23 percent were intended for private individuals and 16 percent for a mixed group (professionals and private individuals).
Follow-up of incidents involving biocidal products
The FPS Public Health works together with the Poison Centre to collect data on acute poisonings caused by biocidal products. These data make it possible to:
- Reduce, as far as possible, the risks of products that have the potential to cause incidents
- Quickly identify any new problems involving biocidal products
Of all the calls received by the Poison Centre annually relating to biocidal products, an average of 75 to 80 percent of the calls come from members of the general public. The remaining 20 to 25 percent of the incidents involve professional users, including farmers, veterinarians and hospital workers.
More than one-third of the victims exposed to biocidal products are children aged between one and five years. This is due to the exploratory behaviour of children of this age group. The majority of incidents involving children occur with insecticides, rodenticides (mouse and rat poisons), repellents and disinfectants. More than half of the accidents involving adults occur with disinfectants and insecticides. No fatal incidents involving humans were reported between 2012 and 2020.
Communication and awareness-raising
The FPS Public Health is committed to ensuring a safe and sustainable use of biocidal products, with focus on health and the environment. Via targeted communication campaigns, we want to promote proper product use practices and inform users about the relevant legislation. The various initiatives include:
- Information media: we develop leaflets, brochures, websites and other information media and make these widely available
- Gatherings and events: we participate in major events such as the Libramont Agriculture, Forestry and Agribusiness Fair or activities organised as part of the Spring without Pesticides (Lente zonder Pesticiden) initiative
- Information sessions: we organise practical information sessions for professionals as well as an annual forum with the relevant sectors
- Campaigns: in 2020, we launched a wide-ranging information campaign about closed-circuit biocidal products, aimed at the professional sector
Introduction of the closed circuit
To reduce the risk of incidents involving hazardous biocidal products among the general public, the FPS Public Health has introduced the closed circuit classification system. Under this classification system, biocidal products with high health risks remain primarily reserved for professional users.
Only the most hazardous biocidal products, that require the wearing of special protective equipment, are classified as closed-circuit products.These are products that are toxic, corrosive, carcinogenic or capable of causing reproductive damage. Sellers and users of closed-circuit biocidal products are required to register.