Any biocides used to prevent and treat waterborne pathogens must be registered under the Biocidal Products Regulations. Steven Booth explains what this means for FMs.
15 September 2015 | By Steven Booth
'Article 95' is the name of the list now home to biocidal ingredients that can be legally used to prevent and treat Legionella, Pseudomonas and other bacteria found in cooling and process water systems.
In total, Article 95 covers 23 different products types, such as disinfectants, preservatives, pest control and antifouling substances.
The list has been introduced as part of the Biocidal Product Regulations (BPR), European-wide legislation designed to ensure that biocides are assessed for their safety near people, animals and the environment before they are made available on the market.
Facilities managers who deal with water treatment in-house must ensure that their supply chain is compliant; if you employ a third party, it's important that you check your service provider uses approved products.
Keeping safe with the BPR
Biocides approved under the BPR are subject to a risk assessment to decide if they can be used without any undue risk.
The label on an approved/authorised product contains specific health and safety advice, which if followed, should not cause adverse effects for the user, or those who come into contact with the treated water.
If you are unsure if the biocide products being used are safe, you can search for them on the HSE’s website.
If you are concerned that a biocide that is not on the list is being used, you can contact the HSE or local authority environmental health officer to report it.
Apart from choosing the right biocides from reputable suppliers, FMs must more generally take steps to make sure their buildings are safe from potentially deadly diseases.
Risk to human health aside, wherever poor water hygiene causes an outbreak of Legionnaire's Disease, for example, fines and there will also be damaged reputations.
As water is used as part of HVAC systems, for sanitation and drinking in every building, water hygiene should be a priority for all FMs.
Any internal staff tasked with monitoring and treating water must be fully versed with ACoP L8. Legionella awareness training is advised to ensure they are up to speed with the risks and how to minimise them.
In the event of a pathogen outbreak, this person or team will have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, so the role should be considered an important one. External suppliers should have a current Legionella Control Association Certificate, in addition to other industry standard certificates and accreditations.
Legionella risk assessments are a requirement of the ACoP L8 for every building to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act, the COSHH Regulations and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Act. They need to be reviewed regularly with a continuing scheme of control to ensure that water hygiene is maintained. You cannot just build a water system with the right Legionella prevention measures in place and then leave it - continuous monitoring and water sample testing are strongly recommended.
Temperature control, preventing stagnant water, regular pipe and water tank cleaning will all go some way to keeping water hygienic.
Taking the non-chemical route
It is also important to note that chemical dosing is not the only answer when it comes to water treatment.
Photocatalytic water purifiers greatly reduce bacterial levels in the water without the use of biocides, inspired by nature's own way of purifying water. A specific frequency of light and photocatalytic surfaces are used to create free radicals that break down harmful micro-organisms and other pollutants in water.
Highly reactive, these radicals instantaneously break down harmful microorganisms and other pollutants. The radicals are short-lived and exist for only a few milliseconds, which means they have no possibility of affecting water quality or causing harm to the environment. And whether approved under the BPR or not, chemicals are chemicals, and the less we use of them, the better it is for the health of people, animals and the environment.
While not a solution for every system, non-chemical alternatives to Legionella water treatment should be considered to more generally reduce our reliance on toxic substances. Whether used on their own, or in conjunction with traditional chemical dosing, they present a more sustainable and cost-effective approach to keeping water clean and pathogen-free.
As with many health and safety issues, water hygiene can sometimes get ignored, with responsible parties reacting to problems rather than preventing them in the first place.
Making sure that your biocide supply chain complies with the BPR provides facilities and property managers with a good opportunity to check that the right precautions and measures are in place when it comes to assessing and managing Legionella risk - a risk that could prove fatal if left unchecked.
Steven Booth is associate director at Guardian Water Treatment