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Hand sanitisers in and around Tshwane are substandard, study finds

Dr Abdullahi Ahmed Yusuf, a senior lecturer in entomology at the University of Pretoria, says homemade alcohol-based hand sanitisers conformed to a greater degree to World Health Organisation standards.
Dr Abdullahi Ahmed Yusuf, a senior lecturer in entomology at the University of Pretoria, says homemade alcohol-based hand sanitisers conformed to a greater degree to World Health Organisation standards.
Image: UP

Commercial, off-the-shelf hand sanitisers used by members of the public in and around Tshwane are substandard, do not contain the recommended alcohol content, and are mostly incorrectly labelled, according to local and international standards.

This was the finding of a University of Pretoria (UP) study.

Most products analysed during the study found sanitiser solutions did not contain alcohol compositions for ethanol and isopropanol, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), said the university.

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

The study’s findings were published in the South African Journal of Science by Dr Abdullahi Ahmed Yusuf, senior lecturer in entomology in UP’s department of zoology and entomology in the faculty of natural and agricultural sciences.

“The results from the study, which involved testing a range of readily available sanitisers in the Tshwane area for compliance with international standards, are concerning, particularly as we head into the fourth wave and rely on this non-pharmaceutical intervention for limiting the spread of the virus,” said Yusuf.

The presence of products on the market and in public places that do not qualify as alcohol-based hand sanitisers and are not appropriately labelled poses a significant risk to consumers, he said.

“Using substandard products exposes the population unknowingly to the virus by increasing the chances of transmission via contaminated surfaces,” said Yusuf.

He said 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 was the inconsistency in the amount of ethanol in sanitisers, affecting their efficacy.

“There are several substandard hand sanitisers out there and 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.”

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

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.

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

“For now, in the absence of appropriate quality control measures, preparing alcohol-based hand sanitisers using the WHO’s guide for local formulations remains a better alternative to purchasing off-the-shelf products that are primarily substandard,” he recommended.

TimesLIVE

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