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DB Blog #40 – So, what do we really know about hand sanitisers?

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How safe is your hand sanitiser?

The current pandemic has certainly given rise to a massive awareness campaign on the importance of hand hygiene.  Whilst it is recognised that hand washing with soap and water provides effective hand hygiene against viruses, including COVID-19, there has been an increased demand for hand sanitisers since the virus causing huge issues with shortages of supply.

In a bid to help, some manufacturers registered with the US Food Drug Administration (FDA) to help fill the gap and provide the much needed product.  However, with no previous knowledge or historic manufacturing ‘know how’ for hand sanitiser products, some newly manufactured sanitisers have been produced with potential safety issues.  Indeed, the FDA has concerns that some products are not in line with its policy standards and are being marketed with unproven COVID-19 related claims.   The FDA is urging consumers to be vigilant of products sold with misleading and potentially unproven claims.

source: FDA

British Standard (BS) and European Standard (EN)

In the UK, manufacturers must comply with the relevant laws.  Products complying to British Standards will carry a number (eg. BS1234) and shows that the manufacturer claims to have made the product in accordance with the British Standard.  Sometimes the BS will be accompanied by the letters EN and/or ISO.  This means that the standard was developed as a European (EN) or International (ISO) standard and then adopted for the UK as a British Standard.

Hand sanitising products fall into one of three regulatory groups depending on their intended use, description or function:

  1. COSMETIC – Products used to clean and/or moisturise skin while providing a secondary antimicrobial* effect such as liquid soap or solid soap bars
  2. MEDICINES – Products which make claims to treat/prevent infections associated with named pathogens (eg. COVID-19)
  3. BIOCIDES – Products primarily claiming to kill germs, disinfect or sanitise using an active antimicrobial* ingredient such as hand sanitisers
source: HSE

Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR)

Hand sanitisers are classed as a Biocide and as such governed by Article 95 of the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) which requires that active substances in a biocidal product are sourced from one of the suppliers on its approved list, whether directly or indirectly.  However due to these recent unprecedented times, the rules have relaxed a little and some products have been released onto the market not having had the usual rigorous compliance checks.

Whilst this is all totally understandable under the extreme circumstances, it has given rise to a number of considerations and concerns where newly manufactured hand sanitisers are concerned.

Methanol Based Sanitisers

The FDA has recently issued a list of hand sanitisers to avoid after identifying methanol as an ingredient in some newly manufactured products.  Methanol can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and can be life-threatening when ingested.  Indeed, the FDA is aware of adults and children ingesting products contaminated with methanol with such extreme effects.

source: FDA

Hand Sanitisers without Emollients

Furthermore, many of the new products are being produced without softening emollients.  Emollients are added to protect the skin from the harshness of repeated use of alcohol.  Without these, hands are suffering and in some cases the newly manufactured sanitisers have caused incidents of dermatitis.

In the UK, Dermatitis is a reportable condition under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) to HSE if the condition has been contracted whilst working (Occupational Dermatitis).

source: HSE

Be alert with your purchases!

Whilst we need to ensure that hand sanitisers are available within our day to day working practices, just as we do with correct PPE and cleaning agents, it is imperative that we pay attention to the validity of any claims made by new products coming into the market and note the longevity, experience and knowledge of the manufacturer for any new product before making a purchase.  New is not always safe!

CJS Portsmouth has over 40 years’ experience and knowledge within the industry, so if you are unsure on any of your sanitising products, why not speak to one of our Sales Executives for guidance.  Call us on 023 9243 4505 now.

Yours, DB

*antimicrobial activity refers to the process of killing or inhibiting the diseases causing microbes