(“The Ideal Biocide”) Vs. Benefect (“The World’s Only Authentically Botanical Disinfectant”)
Prepared by Herman Sabath, Ph.D., MPH, MSc, CMC
The following non-toxic biocides: SNiPER ™ and Benefect were selected for the purpose of a scholastic review in our certification classes (Mold Assessors NYS, Mold Remediation)
On the completion of class activity, each attendee will be able to:
1. Appreciate the complexity and vast abundance of open and hidden information in the Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
2. Understand, and prioritize, client’s physiological and psychological needs of your environmental restoration projects
3. There is always additional and alternative information to SDS, which accompanies biocidal products
Many years ago, I was asked by students in the Mold Certification Classes (CMI, CMRS, CMC, and most recently in the NYS Licensing for Mold Assessors) to prepare a comparison of biocides to include beside the regulatory OSHA’s requirements, data of practical implications for their clients. Efficacy in disinfection/decontamination/sterilization, besides OSHA’s requirements 29 CFR §1910, is important information in addition to health and safety, physical, chemical and toxicological properties. All these parameters referred to by the law may limit the usage of certain biocides in a variety of circumstances and immunodefficient and chemically sensitive clients.
The major concern of my students was the potential health hazards posed by chemical ingredients in the biocides, and not any less important, the comfort of the people who reside or work in the abated area. Reviewing descriptive materials and MSDS/SDS provided by manufacturers, many included the so-called “green” cleaners, “green” disinfectants, and “green” decontaminants. I realized that, with all the manufacturers good intentions to fit the trend to be ecologically and customer friendly, some “green” products still contain chemical ingredients that pose a whole range of undesirable effects on human comfort, such as perceptions of odors, and plethora of symptoms and complains. and physiological load.
Currently, due to competition between manufacturers for the market of biocides, new terminology is employed, such as “non-toxic biocide”, “reduced toxicity”, and “low toxicity”. My belief is that to comply with OSHA, EPA, and other agencies regulating health and safety requirements are not sufficient today because some ignore the important issue of discomfort, cause by non-toxic, non-regulated chemicals that produce odors, and chemical byproducts.
With a developing and evolving science of Environmental Medicine, more and more groups of sensitive individuals are diagnosed, or self-reported, with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Chemical Sensitivity (CS), Immuno-depressed, immuno- problematic individuals, and individuals with olfactory deficiencies and disorders, such as Hyperosmia, Parosmia, or Phantosmia.
It is important to emphasize that in our industry, health, comfort, and well-being of our clients are the sum and substance of our endeavor. Therefore, when we analyze and compare between biocides for use in restoration projects, the most important factor to look at is the toxicity of the product and its chemical ingredients. To protect your clients, look beyond the safety and health effects of the products (toxicity). I highly recommend you look for characteristics of additional ingredients for which OSHA does not require information in the SDS, and many of which are capable in generating nuisances such as odor because of volatility and therefore constituting psychological and physiological burden to the occupants. For your information, Odors, a working definition: the property or quality of a chemical that effects, stimulates, irritates, or is perceived by the sense of smell at lowest concentration. Usually, the word has a negative connotation, “deodorant,” “bad odor,” “foul odor,” and is opposed to “scent” and “fragrance.” Two major types of Odor Thresholds (OT) can be distinguished: (1) the detection odor threshold (DOT), which is the minimum concentration at which an odor can be detected, and (2) the recognition threshold, which is the minimum concentration at which a chemical can be identified or recognized. The Odor Threshold of a chemical is determined in part by its molecular shape, polarity, particle charges, and mass.
Please remember what the Odor Threshold’s numerical value actually means: the lower the number, the easier it is to perceive it.
For practical reasons, we compared two types of biocides:
1) A chemical biocide, SNiPER ™ , based on Chlorine dioxide and traces of Quaternary Ammonium additives.
2) a botanical biocide, Benefect, based on botanical extracts, such as Thymol, Carvacrol (a phenolic ingredient), and 43 additional chemicals.
For comparison, we used the regulatory requirements of OSHA 29 CFR §1910, such as toxicity parameters and for human comfort, we looked at parameters of physical-chemical properties, such as vapor pressure, density, reactivity, volatility, and odors.
Beyond the regulatory requirements, such as OSHA 29 CFR §1910 and OSHA 3084, there are additional important details to be taken into consideration for the well-being and comfort of the clients. For instance, chemicals and ingredients that are not required to be reported in the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) may pose physical-chemical properties, such as corrosivity, vapor pressure, and odors who may cause discomfort and complaints from clients, and not just from sensitive groups of people (MCS, CFS, CS, etc.), but also from what is considered “healthy” people. In the recent New York State DOL regulation 32 for licensing of Mold Remediators, we can read the following: “the XYZ Mold Remediator will interview the client and the building occupants to take into account the potential for occupant sensitivities.”
Regarding this issue, beyond the efficacy obtained by the use of the biocidal product, we have to keep in mind client satisfaction and prevention of discomfort and complaints. To do that we need to look for information not reported (not required to be reported!) in the SDS, which, as 5 per the current law, has to be displayed on the project site. Sources of information are multiple and offer the curious mind plenty of helpful information.
Following is a practical example: Ingredients found in one of the commonly and frequently used in Benefect biocidal products (Benefect Broad Spectrum Disinfectant (1), and Benefect Atomic Cleaner (2)) as reported to the author by several environmental contractors:
(1). The Broad Spectrum Disinfectant (Thyme-extract): Ingredients: Organic oils, Thymol, Carvadol, plus 43 chemicals, some of which are volatile organics, some irritants.
Thyme is not the name of a chemical, it is the name of a perennial, fragrant plant, due to its phenolic ingredient, cymophenal (carvacrol between 75% – 76.8%), characteristically pungent and warm odor, and alcoholic ingredient Thymol (4.7%), with a mint-like odor.
Odor Threshold (OT) Detection Level: 0.001ppm (low) – 0.01ppm (high) Toxicity: Category IV (lowest) by EPA
LD50: 4700mg/Kg body weight
Volatility: 0.1 – 1
Among reported health effects of exposure: skin dryness, redness, and dermatitis. According to Search Toxnet, the following adverse effects are noted: Neurotoxin and Dermotoxin. Inhalation: may cause drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and headaches.
(2). Benefect Atomic Cleaner: This is a fire and soot cleaner that contains also alcohols, and therefore is a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC).
Major Health and Safety Issues, in acute (short-term) exposures: eye, skin, respiratory tract irritation.
Chronic Exposure: Dry skin, and respiratory tract sensitization.
It is considered by OSHA hazardous for irritancy.
(Efficacy comparison between the two products are beyond the scope of this article, and for the purpose of this article, we also ignored description of parameters such as residual effect, friendliness to environment, biodegradation, corrosivity, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)).
SNiPER ™ is a chemical biocide that is based on Chlorine dioxide, and traces of Ammonium chloride. The concentration of Chlorine dioxide is 2,000 ppm in aqueous solution, and will only activate on a specific target, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, Volatile Organic Chemicals, and odors. Chlorine dioxide is very toxic and is a strong oxidizing agent, and the developers of the biocide had to introduce a mechanism (chemical propriety) that reduced toxicity, and at the same time, enhanced its biocidal effect. The traces of Ammonium chloride, at these doses, are not known to pose any health hazards. As an oxidizer, Chlorine dioxide is very selective due to one electron exchange mechanism, therefore, compared to other common biocides, such as Chlorine, Ozone, less Chlorine dioxide is required to obtain the level of active residual and efficient disinfectant. It can penetrate the biofilm’s layers of slime of microorganisms, because Chlorine dioxide oxidizes the polysaccharide matrix that keeps microorganisms together. It acts continuously and repetitively against the multiple layers per demand, removing the leftovers of the biofilm. This process is variable within each contaminated location, but can be predetermined by users.
Reviewing the SDS provided by the manufacturer, the following important data was obtained:
Toxicity (as per EPA): Lowest, Category IV, LD50 = 5,000 mg/kg of body weight.
Other hazards (as per NFPA): Health (H) = 0, Reactivity (R) = 0, Flammability (F) = 0, Other = 0.
Exposure Limits: OSHA/NIOSH = None
Inhalation: Does not cause any irritation.
Odor limit: Not reported. Literature 0.1 ppm (High Threshold)
Class Activity Objective, Decision Making:
You are required to select a biocide which avoids nuisance, such as odor, on the project site where clients informed you about one of their sensitivities.
Based on the above information, you are required to make the most practical decision for the success of the project, keeping in mind occupant/client satisfaction.
For those of you who asked my opinion, I would always say: Keeping in mind the wellbeing of the client, I would choose the biocide which does not produce odors or increase the likelihood of perceiving odors, and subsequently, potential complaints of dissatisfaction, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and irritation of mucous membranes (leading to tears, runny nose, scratchy throat, etc.)
Quoting ILO/WHO definition of occupational/environmental health: “Health, as part of wellbeing, and is not merely absence of illness but also comfort.” Therefore, my preference between the two analyzed biocides, with SNiPER ™ (Chlorine Dioxide product) and not with the “nice, pleasant” fragrance produced by Thymol and Carvadol, natural products of plants.
The complete definition of Health as per the WHO (04/07/1948): “Health is a state of complete physical, social, mental wellbeing and not merely the absence of decease or infirmity.”
References & Additional Information
1. Appendix A in 29 CFR §1910.1200 Minimum Information for an SDS (https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS& p_id=10103)
2. New York State Department of Labor Law Article 32 regarding licensing for Mold Remediator and Mold Assessors.
3. Article published in the prestigious International Journal of Agriculture and Biology – “Chemical Composition of Essential Oils of Thyme” Published in 2009.
4. Richard J. Lewis “Sax’s Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials” 12th Edition – 2012
5. “Characterization of Volatile Constituents from Origanum onites* Published in JAOAC in 2013. *Same Family of Thyme (Lamiacae)
6. Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the product “Thyme Guard” Section 3: Hazards and Potential Health Effects are reported: Eye irritation, ardency, redness. Skin Irritation, dryness. Inhalation: throat irritation, headache, and nausea.
7. Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for Carvacrol (major ingredient in botanicals using Thyme). See Odors and Health Effects.
8. A. Gilbert (2008) “The Science of Scent in Every Day Life (1st Ed.) N.Y.
9. D. Zald, J.V. Pardo (1997). Emotion, Olfaction and the Human Amygdala. 10. SDS: SNiPER ™ – 2014
11. SDS: Benefect – 2012
12. Odor Threshold Determination of 53 Odorant Chemicals in Journal of the Air Pollulation Central Association – 1969 10
13. Herman Sabath “Airgonomics” at IAQA Annual Meeting and Exhibition (October 25-26, 2006) Nashville, Tennessee
14. Herman Sabath “Sick Building Syndrome (SBS): Old Problems and New Solutions” at MABFM’08 15. Herman Sabath “Biocides: Use, Misuse, Abuse” at EMSL sponsored Seminar 2010 Long Island, NY
16. Herman Sabath “Is Mold a Public Health Problem?” at the Annual Meeting and Exhibition of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) November 6, 2009, St. Petersburg, Florida
17. Herman Sabath “Water Damage Mitigation and Mold Awareness” for Custodial Staff & Building Engineers of Mayoral Agencies of the City of New York. NAETI, New York 2010
18. Herman Sabath: 2-day Seminar, “A Preparatory Course for New York State Mold Assessor and Contractor License, September – October 2016, Delmar, NJ