There is insufficient research-based knowledge available to be able to assess the impact of microbial-based cleaning products on health and the environment.
This is the key message in an assessment that the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment (VKM) has conducted for the Norwegian Environment Agency.
VKM was requested to update the information on microbes used in microbial-based cleaning products, and the consequences these may have on health and the environment. VKM was also requested to suggest a documentation checklist that can be employed for risk assessment purposes regarding microbial-based cleaning products.
Microbial-based cleaning products are cleaners with microorganisms as active ingredients. Such cleaning products are described as environmentally friendly and are becoming increasingly common.
Presently, there are no international regulations for the production and use of microbial cleaners.
More knowledge is needed
-To be able to assess the impact of microbial-based cleaning products on health and the environment, the microbes must be identified on species or strain level. This has not been attainable since the level of accuracy in the specification of the microbial content in such products is generally low, Elisabeth Henie Madslien points out. She is chair of the working group.
-We need more knowledge on how microbial cleaning products affect animal and plant life, terrestrial as well as aquatic, Madslien comments. A considerable lack of knowledge still exists on how their release via sewage systems for example, will affect microbial communities at the local level, both in the short and long term.
-We also need more research on the potential unintended effects of combining different types of microbes in a product, and the mechanisms that microbes in such cleaning products employ to exclude unwanted microorganisms.
This assessment is an extension of a previous assessment that VKM conducted for the NEA in 2016. The NEA plans to use this report as part of the knowledge base for health and environmental risk assessments of microorganisms that are used as active ingredients in cleaning products.
The Panel on Microbial Ecology is responsible for this assessment. This report is based on available scientific literature that has been published in the course of the past five years.