Antimicrobial agents are added to many building products, especially interior finishes marketed to the healthcare building sector.
However, they do not reduce housekeeping requirements, and there is serious concern over their potential contribution to the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance. While no evidence exists that these additives result in fewer hospital-acquired infections, more and more products are being introduced with antimicrobial agents. While there are direct concerns regarding the toxicity of the two main types of antimicrobial agents used in interiors products (chemical pesticides and nanoparticles such as nano-silver), antimicrobial resistance is the main concern.
Note: The copper industry touts the natural antimicrobial properties of its elemental products. While copper may avoid the direct concerns associated with pesticides and nanoparticles, antimicrobial resistance to copper is also of increasing concern.
Materials and products which are offered with added antimicrobial treatments.
• Resilient flooring
• High-pressure laminates
• Solid surface
Antimicrobial agents: A general term for the drugs, chemicals or other substances that either kill or slow the growth of microbes.
Antimicrobial resistance: Antimicrobial resistance is the result of microbes changing in ways that reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals or other agents to cure or prevent infections.
What Can I Do On My Project?
• In the absence of research which shows effectiveness which outweighs the negative health impacts, employ the Precautionary Principle.
• Products with added antimicrobials are usually advertised as ‘Antimicrobial’.
Watch for this term and avoid products labeled as antimicrobial.
• Request Health Product Declarations (HPD) from product vendors and manufacturers.
An HPD identifies health hazards associated with product ingredients.