By Burt Rodrigues, CEO of Biodx; and dermatologist, Dr Selwyn Schwartz
“The latest research carried out by accredited laboratory SciCorp in KwaZulu-Natal has shown that out of 11 hand sanitisers, 9 bought from stores and 2 samples given out at the entrance to a mall or shop, 5 were found to be non-compliant. This means they didn’t contain the minimum 70% alcohol content, required by law.
“What was particularly frightening to note was that labels on two of the products claimed to have 70% alcohol content, whilst in reality one had 46.3% ethanol and another, claiming to have 85% alcohol had 54.9% propanol. In a recent report in Times Live SciCorp Laboratories’ business development director Adrian Barnard said, “Our biggest concern scientifically is what people are adding to products when there is less alcohol.”
“This at a time when people’s very lives depend on trusting these sanitisers, not just to keep them free of Covid-19 but not to cause irreparable harm to their skin or health. Many of these products were produced during the rush to get sanitisers to the retail market, often forgoing the rigorous and often lengthy testing procedures of the SABS and NRCS.
Skin reactions to sanitisers
“According to the NCBI (National Centre for Biotechnology Information) there are two major types of skin reactions that could be caused by hand sanitising. Most common would be dryness, irritation, itching and even cracking and bleeding (irritant contact dermatitis) or a stronger allergic reaction to an ingredient in a particular product which could cause respiratory distress and even anaphylaxis.
“In any one day people are using hand sanitisers innumerable times without knowing just how many times that product is safe to use within that time frame. And that’s assuming it’s a safe product in the first place. With this in mind we’re currently developing an alcohol free, 99.999% kill rate hand sanitiser called vitrodx® hand with b bioactive™, which is not only safer than alcohol but effective for up to 7 hours. And like all our products has been developed not only to be kinder to human skin but also the planet.
“This is often the case when methanol, a type of toxic alcohol is used in these products confirms the CDC (Center for Disease Control), which can cause blindness and/or death when absorbed through the skin or when swallowed, and which recently resulted in several deaths in New Mexico. This has led to the FDA recalling products containing a significant amount of methanol, which doesn’t always appear on the label but is found after testing.”
Tips from a dermatologist
By far the best and safest way to keep your skin safe and healthy is to rather wash with soap and water when you can. “If you have the option of using sanitiser or soap and water, then definitely choose the latter which will ensure you are moisturising as well as keeping the virus at bay. For some people who are in and out of buildings and shops where the only options are sanitisers they should try and wash with soap and water as soon as they can and then moisturise with hand cream.”
All hand creams are not made equal. “You must use a thick cream, particularly before going to bed at night. The thicker the cream the more moisture it contains. Many products including aqueous cream contain lauryl sulfate which is a vanishing cream ingredient that dries skin out further instead of maintaining surface moisturiser.”
Preventing anti-covid sanitiser damaged skin
- Use your own sanitiser (one you’ve verified is effective and safe) when entering and leaving anywhere
- Wear gloves which you can sanitise – washing your hands before and after wear
- Where possible wash with soap and water rather than use sanitiser
By Burt Rodrigues, CEO of Biodx
“Right now each time you walk in or out of a shop, office or building, you’re supposed to use whatever hand sanitiser they’re offering – unless you bring your own. And to be safe at home you’ve probably been buying various products off the supermarket or pharmacy shelves. Do these products make you feel safe? The very word sanitiser alone on the label sadly isn’t enough to guarantee your protection, particularly from Covid-19.
“So how can you make sure you are in fact fully protected? In theory the answer should be easy. The label should clearly show an SABS approval stamp. After all they call themselves a ‘leading global providers of standards and regulatory approval, certification and accreditation’. But how hard can it be to get when we’ve just cut and pasted it from the internet.
“A product showing their mark and registration is telling the consumer you’re guaranteed the same quality of product and performance every time you use it. So, without this guarantee or falsely using this label means one thing – danger.
“I you received this approval rating 15 years ago it was a very different ballgame. In the past when you saw an SABS stamp on a product containing chemicals made to kill living things, you had trust in it. “Such products pose a danger to the consumer which is why government developed a framework over many years to protect society from getting hurt. This rating should mean something, particularly given the process that products are supposed to go through to qualify – the onus shouldn’t be on the consumer to get the product tested.
Degradation of compliance
“Sadly the last 20 years has seen the degradation of such compliance platforms and people have become accustomed to buying non-regulated compounds, which are dangerous to human health. Today no one is aware what these regulations even are and with Covid-19 and the urgency around manufacturing and sourcing such products this equals a very dangerous situation.
“Then you have the NRCS (National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications) which is there to make sure your product has a registration number; proving by using the product you aren’t endangering society. The problem here is not everyone is a chemist, doctor or scientist and people don’t realise they should check out the registration on the product with the company’s website to verify its authenticity. After all if you can’t rely on the NRCS brand being real you can’t rely on yourself as a consumer. It’s comparable to taking a Ferrari hood ornament and sticking it on a Tata…
“Another thing that’s changed over the years is the enforcement behind false claims such as these. In the past nobody would dare make a false claim on a product because you could be jailed but complacency has crept in over the years and these bodies don’t have the capacity or knowledge any longer to enforce such punishment.
Only a handful of companies/ brands comply
“If people suddenly only started buying genuine SABS/NRCS labelled products there would be only a handful of companies who could supply them. What has happened overseas with the sudden surge in the need for disinfectant products was to allow products on to the shelves which have gone through the registration process but have just not been awarded final documentation. These are now being rapidly fast tracked and approved – but only if they comply with the strict regulations. Such registrations normally take years and cost hundreds of thousands of Rands to complete but somehow quite a few not so compliant products have also made it on to shelves.
“So what does this mean for schools which have just reopened? Perhaps this is one of the contributors to so many quickly closing down again. They go through all the motions of disinfecting but are they using genuine and safe products?
“It comes down to where does the responsibility lie. We’re dealing with dangerous products here – possibly that haven’t been tested for human consumption. If the instructions on a product also aren’t clear and you put too much on your skin it won’t just kill the viruses but damage your skin too. And then there’s the content. Some raw material has sugar in it and if this is left behind after use it can trigger a microbial explosion, turning 1 000 bugs into 100 000 bugs, creating rather than preventing infection. Without proper SABS and NRCS rating you are in danger!
Always check the packaging label as follows:
- Does it display the SABS and NRCS marks?
- Does it contain SABS or NRCS registration numbers?
- If you are in doubt go to the SABS OR NRCS websites to check it out.