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By Citizen Reporter


Tshwane residents using dodgy hand sanitisers – study

Substandard sanitisers, however, do not seem to be limited to Gauteng, with Yusuf stressing that, according to anecdotal evidence, the problem is countrywide.

As Tshwane battles an outbreak of the Omicron variant, a University of Pretoria (UP) scientist has found that the majority of the city’s hand sanitisers do not contain the recommended 70% alcohol volume.

A vast majority of the products analysed during a study found that sanitiser solutions did not contain alcohol
compositions for ethanol and isopropanol, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Most off-the-shelf products were incorrectly labelled according to local and international standards.

Study findings

The study was conducted by UP’s Dr Abdullahi Ahmed Yusuf, senior lecturer in entomology in the university’s department of zoology and entomology.

The findings, which were published in the South African Journal of Science, involved testing a range of readily available sanitisers in the Tshwane area for compliance with international standards.

Yusuf said 50 products of different origins and formulations were obtained off the shelf and in public places
in and around Tshwane were analysed for their alcohol content using gas chromatography.

“Ethanol was the most common alcohol used, followed by isopropanol. Only 21 (42%) of the products analysed contained at least 70% alcohol; of these, only 14 (28%) met the WHO’s recommended 80% alcohol content to have a virucidal effect on SARS-CoV-2.”

Substandard sanitisers, however, do not seem to be limited to Gauteng, with Yusuf stressing that, according to anecdotal evidence, the problem is countrywide.

The study found that of the 41 commercial off-the-shelf products analysed, 27 (66%) contained less than 70% alcohol in comparison to 13% of homemade products.

Only 18% of gel products contained 70% alcohol, compared with 47% for liquid-based products. Most of the
products did not contain the appropriate or correct declaration as recommended by the South African National
Standards (SANS 289 and 490).

Sub-standard sanitisers driven by profit

Hand sanitisers are the first line of defence against Covid-19, and because alcohol content and concentrations are imperative for a sanitiser to have virucidal activity, the findings suggest a widespread lack of adherence to the required composition.

The findings are particularly alarming because Tshwane is the epicentre of the fourth wave of infections driven by Omicron.

“There are several substandard hand sanitisers out there; this is driven largely by profit. For example, because ethanol is an expensive solution, if you cut corners on 10%, that equates to more profit.”

Study findings show the need for tighter monitoring

According to Yusuf, government monitoring of sanitiser products is imperative, as some manufacturers have failed to spell out what they contain, which is a deviation from the local standard.

Of particular concern, he noted, was the inconsistency in the amount of ethanol in these sanitisers, thus affecting their efficacy.

The proliferation of substandard hand sanitisers calls for stricter regulation and enforcement to protect the
public, their rights and their well-being during and after the Covid-19 pandemic period, Yusuf said.

Ironically, homemade alcohol-based hand sanitisers conformed, to a greater degree, to WHO standards.

“It is evident from these results that there is a need to monitor the manufacture of off-the-shelf products to ensure
compliance and to assure consumers that products offer the required protection against SARS-CoV-2,” he said.

Compiled by Narissa Subramoney

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