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Hand sanitizer — What you need to know to stay safe

For shops that are formulating their own hand sanitizers as supplies dwindle, there are important considerations when it comes to staff safety and chemicals used

Chris Gabrelcik is the owner of Lubrication Specialties Inc., a manufacturer of Hot Shot’s Secret oils and additives and LSI Chemical hand sanitizer

As Covid-19 has spread around the world, so has the demand for hand sanitizer. So much so that according to market researchers at Adobe Analytics, the demand for hand sanitizer rose 1,400 percent from December 2019 to January 2020. That demand has led to hand sanitizer being largely unavailable across our nation.

Chris Gabrelcik

So, while hand sanitizer availability is at an all-time low, the need for it has never been higher across all regions of the country and for the entire populace. The supply gap has forced the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue new, temporary guidelines to allow non-licensed companies to begin producing alcohol-based hand sanitizers. As stated in the FDA’s document “Temporary Policy for Preparation of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency (COVID-19) Guidance for Industry”:

“In response to the demand for alcohol-based sanitizers, certain entities that are not currently regulated by FDA as drug manufacturers have requested guidance on the preparation and distribution of hand sanitizer products for the public’s use.”

Many companies have made the switch to start producing hand sanitizer and are contributing to fill the nationwide need. However, there are limitations. These non-licensed companies that are operating under this temporary status must strictly follow the formulas set forth by the FDA and the recommendations of The World Health Organization (WHO). This means the formulas cannot be modified into a gel form, nor can fragrances be added. Formulas can be created with either isopropyl alcohol or ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol).

“With the surge in new hand sanitizer manufacturers coupled with consumer demand, the isopropyl alcohol typically used in production is now largely unavailable causing people to turn to ethanol as a substitute.”

With the surge in new hand sanitizer manufacturers coupled with consumer demand, the isopropyl alcohol typically used in production is now largely unavailable causing people to turn to ethanol as a substitute.

And while ethanol formulas are still as effective, there are some negatives for using an ethanol-based formula. The ethanol needs to be denatured to prevent consumption. Some manufacturers have benzene in their product, which has been classified as carcinogenic to humans, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Also, there can be a rotten smell associated with it and there are impurities that can be found in some products. For example, Reuters claims the FDA found significant levels of the carcinogen acetaldehyde in ethanol supplied by a company for use in hand sanitizer.

“Denaturing is critical because there have been reports of adverse events, including deaths, from unintentional ingestion of hand sanitizer, particularly in young children.”

The levels of impurities being found in some products prompted the FDA to issue minor changes to its guidance of producing hand sanitizer for the safety of consumers. According to the latest memo, “FDA provides that fuel or technical grade ethanol should only be used if it meets food (or pharmaceutical) grade standards and has been screened for certain impurities. FDA maintains that ethanol used in hand sanitizers under the policy must be denatured using specified denaturants listed in the guidance.”

Denaturing is a very important step in producing hand sanitizer. According to the guidance document the FDA prepared for new hand sanitizer makers, “Denaturing is critical because there have been reports of adverse events, including deaths, from unintentional ingestion of hand sanitizer, particularly in young children.”

“The levels of impurities being found in some products prompted the FDA to issue minor changes to its guidance of producing hand sanitizer for the safety of consumers.”

In early March, our company was uniquely qualified to source ingredients to begin production of hand sanitizer. Collectively as a company, we knew we wanted to help in some way when the outbreak occurred. We began manufacturing hand sanitizer and quickly began giving it away for free to our local hospital and healthcare workers, nursing facilities, to over-the-road truckers and to customers.

As active members of SEMA and APPEX, we have been closely following how the pandemic has been affecting members, and felt a sense of duty to assist our industry during these difficult and historic times. If it were not for our loyal customers and supporters over the past two decades of doing business, we would not have been able to help so many people.

With an immediate response from our primary customers in the automotive and heavy-duty transportation industry to provide this for purchase, we began production of LSI Chemical Hand Sanitizer. Our hand sanitizer does not include benzene or acetaldehyde, we do not use gasoline (yes, some people use gasoline) to denature our ethanol and we also have a multi-day blending process to eliminate any foul odors, like the sulfur or rotten egg smell you can find with other hand sanitizers. After all, you are rubbing this on your hands and surfaces.

There are also positives associated with the FDA- and WHO-recommended formulas. They are proven effective as disinfectants. The Centers for Diesel Control (CDC) states, “Using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.” LSI hand sanitizer is a liquid, 80% alcohol by volume, non-sterile topical antiseptic. While unconventional, the liquid form helps in re-filling smaller containers as well as disinfecting surfaces such as doorknobs, counter tops, light switches, etc.

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For more information on Hot Shot’s Secret’s high performance oils and additive products, or for more information about LSI Chemical hand sanitizer, visit hotshotsecret.com. Company and product news can be found on its Facebook and Instagram accounts or by subscribing to its email newsletter.

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