Regulations (mainly REACH, CLP, and BPR) have been changing the face of biocides in Europe over the last two decades and will continue shaping the market in the coming years. Some substances, such as OBPA (oxybishpenoxarsine), have been completely banned for years, while others, such as formaldehyde releasers, isothiazolinones, zinc pyrithione, zineb, and propiconazole, are currently facing regulatory pressure and uncertainty. All substances that are under close watch could see the appearance of a concentration limit, leading to a de facto phaseout, or it could be simply banned for use in all or several given applications.
In addition to regulations, the European biocides market has been shaped in 2020 by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting some active substances and end-use applications in different and opposite ways ― while increased hygienic needs mean significantly increased consumption of certain active ingredients, negative effects on the economy have affected the overall use of biocides in other end-use applications.
Isothiazolinones, a key biocides family under pressure
Isothiazolinones are a key biocides category that includes BBIT, BIT, CIT/MIT, DCOIT, MIT, and OIT. Most of them are under strong regulatory pressure. However, the situation is different from one type to another.
MIT has been on the decline for several years, and this diminishing path has been accelerated since the EU commission concluded, in October 2018, that MIT is extremely allergenic and reclassified it as allergenic from concentrations as low as 15 ppm (0.0015 %), which is well below the efficacy level. As a consequence of this regulatory change, use of MIT decreased even more, particularly in paints and coatings applications.
DCOIT and OIT recently started to follow the same path as MIT in applications where end-use products are in a liquid form, like paints and coatings, as they will also be classified as skin sensitizer for concentrations above 15 ppm as of March 2022.
BIT, on the contrary, is gaining market share over MIT in almost all applications.
Zinc pyrithione (ZnPT) set to decline
ZnPT has been growing at a moderate pace since 2016 in most of the applications. It benefitted from the drop of MIT and OIT in adhesives & sealants and in paints & coatings and was a preferred alternative to copper-based antifouling marine products for pleasure boats and yachts.
However, its future is highly uncertain due to its reclassification as “toxic to reproduction.” It has already shown signs of decline in the last two years.
Pandemic creating opportunities for biocides
The consumption of quats, the most prominent biocides used in household, industrial, and institutional (HI&I) cleaning applications, has increased by more than 50% in Europe within this segment. Overall, the outbreak of COVID-19 has positively affected most biocides used as a disinfectant in hygiene applications.
Chloroisiocyanurates, the leading product used in recreational water, have also been growing quickly, driven by a boom of private pool–purchases in 2020. As COVID-19 was limiting recreational options and public swimming pools were closed or restricted, consumers were doing what they could to make staying at home more enjoyable.
Similarly, biocides in adhesives & sealants, paints & coatings, and recreational water applications experienced fast growth in 2020, driven by the growth in consumer DIY and home and garden furnishings.
The pandemic also boosted the consumption of biocides in antifoulant marine coatings due to the growing number of vessels. Growth in the paper application was driven by an increase in packaging due to the boom of e–commerce, intensified by COVID-19 and temporary shop closings.
Still, other segments are being negatively hit. Metalworking fluids and oil & gas applications, among others, have declined because of a combination of structural reasons and economic situation.
In metalworking fluids, on top of a longer-term trend in reducing the use of biocides due to HSE concerns and technology improvement, the pandemic has hit key MWF end users hard, especially transportation equipment manufacturers. This has resulted in significant volume losses.
Similarly, oil & gas production has been declining since 2016 and even more in 2020 because of COVID-19, driving down the consumption of biocides in this application.
All these changes are reshaping the biocides market globally, and the competitive landscape is also going through major changes. Bain Capital and Civen acquired Lonza Specialty Ingredients early in 2021; Ashland acquired the personal care activities of Schülke & Mayr at the same time. Major M&A activities are not expected to stop, with IFF’s recently acquired biocides business (formerly Dupont) expected to hit the market later this year.
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In addition, we invite you to review Biocides: How Regulations, COVID-19, Sustainability and M&A Fortify the Market webinar. This recording aims to provide a high-level overview of developments affecting the biocides industry, from regulations and the impact of COVID-19 to green alternatives and M&A activities, including the anticipated divestment of IFF’s anti–microbial business. Request recording >>