Consumer rights

More than half of hand sanitizers lie about the alcohol content – so make your own


Despite previous warnings from product standards organizations and researchers, many hand sanitizers used to help curb the spread of Covid-19 still do not contain the amount of alcohol needed to neutralize the virus.

This is according to a study by Professor Yusuf Abdullahi Ahmed of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria, which was recently published in the South African Journal of Science.

“Most of the commercial alcohol products sold and made available to consumers in public places are of inferior quality and do not contain the amount of alcohol required to be classified as effective virucides, especially against SARS- CoV-2, the causative agent of Covid-19, ”Ahmed said.

Ahmed analyzed 50 commercially available liquid and gel hand sanitizers and found that the vast majority did not meet World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for alcohol content.

The WHO recommends that alcohol-based hand sanitizers (ABHR) contain at least 70% alcohol for effective and rapid antimicrobial activity – and to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The disinfectants that Ahmed tested were purchased from stores, sampled at hand disinfection points in public places in and around Pretoria, or hand sanitizers made at home and in the laboratory based on WHO recommendations.

A total of 38 of the disinfectants were liquids, 11 were gels, and one was a spray formulation.

These were sampled directly from their containers and collected in sterile 1.5 ml Eppendorf tubes.

Ahmed then used a direct gas chromatography method to determine the alcohol composition of disinfectants.

He found that only 14 of the disinfectants contained 75% or more alcohol, while only 21 exceeded the WHO recommendation of 70%.

Interestingly, 63% of homemade sanitizers contained 75% or more alcohol, compared to just 21% of off-the-shelf options.

Making your own hand sanitizers according to WHO guidelines might prove to be more efficient than buying from a store.

47 of the hand sanitizers had labels indicating the type of alcohol they contained, but only 29 indicated their alcohol composition.

Sixteen of them did not contain the amount of alcohol declared on their labels.

One of the hand sanitizers, which used isopropanol as the main ingredient, contained 99% alcohol, far exceeding the 70 ± 5% recommended for isopropanol-based sanitizers.

Another notable finding was that 47 of the disinfectants contained ethanol, two contained isopropanol, and one used a combination of ethanol and isobutanol.

The threshold of efficacy against coronaviruses for ethanol and isopropanol is 80% and 75%, respectively.

The table below shows the results of Ahmed’s analysis.

Ahmed’s findings correlate with previous studies, which revealed a proliferation of fake or weak hand sanitizers in South Africa.

He said incorrect labeling and reporting of ABHR content violates consumer rights and violates South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act.

Even more worrying, the presence of products which are not considered to be ABHR and which were not correctly labeled, represented a great risk for consumers as a result of the preventive measures against Covid-19.

“Using substandard products exposes people to the virus unknowingly by increasing the chances of transmission through contaminated surfaces,” Ahmed said.

“It is therefore necessary to put in place quality control measures, especially at the manufacturing, wholesale and retail levels, to ensure that the consumer gets good quality ABHR qualified from virucidal and correctly labeled. “

“Added to this is the need to test ABHR and any product sold as such for its virucidal effect in order to confirm its efficacy.”

He recommended that in the absence of appropriate quality control measures, consumers should use the WHO guide for local formulations to prepare their own hand sanitizers as a better alternative to purchasing health products. trade which are mostly of inferior quality.

the The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) also enforces strict conditions for disinfectants to obtain its seal of approval.

It is essential to know that some disinfectants have falsely sought SABS approval in the past, so you should consult their official list of approved manufacturers before making a purchase.

The image below shows the information that should be displayed on the hand sanitizer bottle.


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