By Dr Adam Hunniford – PiP Chemicals
There was a time when the word biocide would not have been known outside very specific industry areas and regulatory bodies. But the Covid-19 pandemic has made many more aware of what role biocides have in making sure people and places are not exposed to harmful microorganisms.
With governments urging us all to ensure our hands are clean and that surfaces are clear of contaminants the awareness of what biocides are has become more apparent.
Unfortunately there has been a proliferation of products coming into the market from suppliers who do not have the experience, and more worryingly the certification, in supplying biocide products (or any chemical products at all).
While I founded PiP Chemicals nine years ago my background, from when I was 14, involved helping out my father in his chemical business, as well as having been involved in regulatory work throughout my career.
That is why when we opened the business we knew that we had to be able to stand up for the best principles and standards.
We don’t supply direct to the customer, for both our automotive cleaning products and biocides, but we want to make sure that the people we supply to are confident in labelling the product with the certification and regulatory information to ensure that they are used safely and do the job for which they are intended.
The EU put in place the Biocidal Products Regulations (BPR) that sets out the rules for what biocidal active components can be used.
Whether it is the wholesaler we supply to or a company tendering for a contract that will include use of our products it is incumbent to have done the regulatory groundwork and be aware of the complexities.
There are a number of non-chemicals companies now selling biocides with no idea that their products can damage skin, cause sight problems or worse, leave a lasting health issue.
There are companies that are supplying hand sanitisers containing methanol. Methanol is toxic even if absorbed through the skin. The government’s Compendium of Chemical Hazards lists it as toxic, including when used on skin. It is toxic exposure if you use it in anything that comes into direct contact, plain and simple.
That’s the consequence of individuals and businesses who simply don’t know what they’re doing. There are so many examples where people who don’t understand this industry have put out dangerous products, product recalls should not be happening and the race to the bottom on price is only going to lead to toxic and lower efficacy products entering the marketplace. Remember young children are putting these on their hands too.
From our long experience in working with cleaning and cleansing products we can prove that our product is effective against not only bacteria, but also viruses. We do not skip on the validation of effectiveness. We meet certifications such as EN 1276, EN 1500 and EN 14476. The latter is the certification of effectiveness relating to viruses. If your product or the product you are purchasing does not have EN 14476 certification, you need to ask why not. Having an EN 14476 is essential in attempting to combat Coronavirus – without it you are just guessing..
To be clear in the US the FDA advises: “Consumers who have hand sanitizers with methanol on the label should dispose of the products as hazardous waste”.
We have also come across products that have ethyl acetate in them – safe for removing nail varnish, but definitely not for rubbing on your hands. [https://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2020/73385a-eng.php]
The biocide industry has been massively diluted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with many companies having popped up and producing potentially harmful chemicals for less than a year.
When the health and social care sector or the education authorities purchase from such an organisation because they are looking for the cheapest option that seems to be more value for money there are many questions that arise. Firstly, has the product got the necessary certifications and secondly is the product they have got really the one that was tested? This is the problem we find with companies who aren’t experienced in this area, with every change you make to the formula, ingredients, grade of alcohol and more you have to attain new certifications.
For example, maybe when they received their certification and began manufacturing they used one grade of alcohol and now, in order to maximise profitability on a large contract with low margins, they’re using something different. Do they know enough to know that it’s different? Maybe not. If they’re buying it from countries where they cannot visit the factory or verify the manufacturing process, how do they know what they are buying is what they asked for if they have no experience in this industry and no methods for testing the raw ingredients?
The bottom line is that many of these new companies or companies who have opened new lines of manufacturing into the chemicals industry don’t know enough about what they’re buying – they have no credibility as chemists or people who work with chemicals despite the fact that they’ll say they thought it had been tested. Before you even think of asking about the product you are buying, it is essential you make sure you buy from people who know chemicals.
There are some indicators that you may have been using a cheap and/or poorly formulated product. There may be nasty smells (such as that tequila smell), sticky residues, or dry skin. This is a result of massive cost cutting by dropping alcohol levels or alcohol quality.
It is the case that some organisations do not understand the differences in the type and quality of the alcohol that is being used and still being described as 70-80% alcohol content.
Processes need to be adhered to as, for example ethanol is licensed. For uses like hand sanitisers or cleaning products you can’t just use pure ethanol, it is just not allowed.
You have to use denatured ethanol. What you really should be using is what’s called trade specific denatured alcohol grade 1 TSDA1 and it is denatured in a specific manner. Choose an alternative grade of ethanol and you will have methanol content. The HMRC will tell you that you are allowed to use it, but that ignores the fact that it is enormously unsafe to do so.
It is not just about us being asked about our certification, we want an informed marketplace that knows the questions to ask and not just ‘we like your product, it’s good and cheap’. Instead we want the market to be asking about our EN 14476 certification and asking to provide a certificate to show the ethanol source and grade.
That is the way that the industry as a whole can move to a safer model from sources through to manufacturers, to wholesalers and ultimately for the end user.
I want to be confident that every hand sanitiser, every cleaning product, and every associated product meets the health and safety obligations incumbent upon it and does the job it is intended to do, with no unnecessary risks.
I encourage businesses who want to know more to get in touch, and ask the right questions and be confident in the answers.
The Trading Standards may come calling if it is suspected that what is being sold is not up to standard, more importantly organisations need to be concerned that the Health and Safety Executive may come calling after a member of the public suffers from using dangerous, toxic products.
For information go to pip-chemicals.co.uk