Have you heard of biofilms? No, they are not the movies you used to sleep through in science class; they are very thin layers of microbes that live, breed, and grow together on smooth or somewhat smooth surfaces.
Even if you have not heard of biofilms, it is guaranteed that you have seen them and touched them again and again. Have you ever left a glass of juice on a counter for a few days? The white growth on its surface
is a biofilm, just as is the green slime on streamside rocks, the black gunk on tile, and the mucous-like coating inside faucet openings. There are also plenty of bioflims that are normally invisible to the naked eye.
Danger To Our Health
Besides just being gross, the downside to biofilms is that they can destroy equipment and make us sick, very sick. Biolfilms that form on metals, tile, brick, and wood can corrode the materials they live upon, while many biolfilms produce very unpleasant odors and can provide a safe haven to pathogens that can cause great harm to animals and people alike. Some of the most infamous biofilms include the staphylococcus that causes staph infections, Streptococcus pneumoniae which is the main cause of community-acquired pneumonia and meningitis in the old and the young, and legionella bacteria which is behind Legionnaires disease breakouts.
Now, with all of that being said, there are some beneficial biofilms out there. Rhizobium forms on the roots of plants, with which they live symbiotically. Mircorbial fuel cells make use of biofilms to generate electricity from all sorts of organic materials. And, some biofilms can clean petroleum oil from marine environments through a process called hydrocarbon-degrading activity.
Preventive Maintenance Can Help
One reason that facility managers need to use tools such as preventive maintenance software is because many biofilms cannot be seen. We need to make sure that we clean stainless steel counters, the insides of
faucets, and other surfaces that might be hosting biofilms even when they appear to be clean.
However, just simple cleaning is not enough to kill and get rid of biofilms. In addition to using chemical formulas that have been specifically made to battle biolfilms, facility managers also need to rely on physical tools such as specialized brushes and ultrasonic cleaning devices that use sound to break up the bioflim structures so that the chemicals can fully penetrate the colonies. If even just a few microbes survive the cleaning, the biofilm will return.