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The Risks Associated with Formaldehyde-Based Sanitizers


The sanitizing chemicals used in biosecurity applications must all meet a minimum standard for effectiveness, but this is not the only feature that should be considered when evaluating your options. Applying sanitizing chemicals at the right concentration, pH, and temperature is critical for them to be most effective. As an example, some chemicals, like hypochlorites, are less effective at sanitizing if the surface has not been adequately cleaned. Others must be thoroughly rinsed because they interact with other cleaning chemicals.


D7 vs. Formaldehyde in Biosecurity Applications

If you currently use formaldehyde for decontamination in biosecurity programs, consider how these factors could influence your decision to switch to another option.

Application Temperature

For formaldehyde to be most effective, the barn where it is being applied must be maintained at a certain temperature. For climate-controlled indoor facilities, this might just be a matter of adjusting the thermostat for the application periods. However, many facilities, that house live animals, do not always maintain a constant indoor temperature. 

This means that when it’s time to apply the formaldehyde, the facility has to undergo a major temperature change, which takes time and has associated costs, especially in colder months. D7 does not have the same temperature requirements, so there is no downtime to heat up the facility prior to sanitizing it. 

Specialized Application

Formaldehyde is a hazardous chemical and a known cancer-causing agent. Because of this, a specialist is required to do the application, and without proper PPE while it is being applied or for a period of time afterward while the chemical fog clears. For many companies, this means significant downtime for the farms employees if there are no other tasks they can be performing at the same time. 

D7 does not require a specialist to apply it, so the existing employees can incorporate it into their regular routine. You can also often use equipment that you already own to do the application, so there are no additional costs to switching. 

Worker Safety

Although formaldehyde should be safely applied by a specialist, it can still present risks to workers, and storing it on-site requires certain safety protocols. Companies that are concerned about worker safety are moving away from formaldehyde, especially because it is under increased scrutiny as a known cancer-causing agent. 

D7 is safe to apply and does not require any specialized protective equipment for the workers who apply it. The product also breaks down into nontoxic components, so even if any is left behind after a potable water rinse, it does not present a hazard to employees. 

Facility Downtime

Formaldehyde application can take from 2-4 days to apply, depending on whether the facility has to be heated. 

Although D7 does have minimum recommended contact times, the application process takes significantly less time than formaldehyde. Additionally, for treating biofilms, D7 does not require mechanical action, which also contributes to less downtime. 

Cost of Application

Applying formaldehyde for biosecurity applications costs more than just the product itself; there are also indirect costs. Companies must hire a specialist, potentially heat a facility, and clear the facility for a period of days. This can all add up to a significant expense, especially when employee downtime and lost production time are factored in. 

In contrast, the cost of D7 might be higher for the chemical solution, but the associated costs are far less because the regular crew can apply it, the safety protocols are less time-consuming, and the facility can decrease barn turnover time.


Learn More Before Making the Switch

Although bacterial results are comparable after applying either formaldehyde or D7, the application process is much different. Animal welfare professionals must consider more than just product cost and efficacy when choosing sanitizing chemicals. Whether you are using formaldehyde or any other disinfectant, determine the total cost by factoring in the indirect costs to apply it, in between cycle downtime, and other issues associated with each application. One company did this type of analysis and discovered that it could save more than $2 million per year by switching to D7. Download the case study to learn more.

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