• Is Your Hand Sanitiser Fit for Purpose? - Chromatography Investigates

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Is Your Hand Sanitiser Fit for Purpose? - Chromatography Investigates

Dec 01 2020

Since the beginning of 2020, coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has spread so far and so quickly that the World Health Organization has labelled the disease a pandemic. As most people now know, the disease is caused by a virus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Governments and health authorities have advocated social distancing, facemasks, and handwashing to try and reduce the impact of both the virus and the disease.

But sometimes, handwashing is not possible. When you’re out and about or in areas where clean water is not available, then hand sanitisation could be considered a primary infection prevention method. Alcohol based hand rubs are being recommended by health agencies around the globe. But do they contain what it says on the label? Is the sanitiser fit for purpose? A paper published in the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists journal AAPS PharmSciTech reports on the analysis of seven hand sanitisers from Italy using HS-SPME GC-MS.

Cleaners and sanitisers

Demand for hand sanitisers has rocketed during the current Covid-19 pandemic. Before manufacturers and retailers caught up, it was common to see supermarket shelves stripped bare of hand sanitising products. As ever in a rapidly expanding and profitable marketplace, there is a risk of substandard products hitting the marketplace. In Europe, the European Community has legislation for hand sanitisers that are aimed at providing public protection.

Hand disinfectants come under biocidal regulations, as opposed to cosmetic hand cleaners that do not disinfect. Disinfection in alcohol-based hand rubs is determined by the alcohol content of the sanitiser. Health regulators state that hand disinfectants must contain 60-95% (v/v) ethanol. If the ethanol content is lower that this range, the product may not be as effective at killing microorganisms leaving users with a false sense of security. So, do biocidal hand sanitisers contain as much ethanol as stated on the label?

Gas chromatography measures the ethanol

To address this, the researchers from the Italy and Jordan evaluated the ethanol content of seven commercially available hand sanitisers. They extracted the ethanol from the samples using headspace solid-phase microextraction (HS-SPME) before analysis using gas chromatography mass spectromentry (GC-MS). A guide to improving chromatographic separations can be found in the article, Practical Impact of Dispersion on Fast Chromatographic Separations.

 The team behind the research found that three out of the seven samples had an ethanol content below the regulator’s recommendation. However, one of these three had isopropyl alcohol in addition to the ethanol so the total alcohol content of the sample would be within the regulatory expected range. Of the samples that were within the EU guidelines, two had an ethanol content that varied from the label quantity. The authors conclude that in the era of the CoViD-19 pandemic, when hand disinfection is deemed as a crucial infection prevention measure, having off-the-shelf cosmetic hand gels with sub-disinfecting concentrations of ethanol is concerning.

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