Profit versus health: why most sanitizers do not save from infections
About 80% of antibacterial agents on the Russian market do not protect against bacteria, viruses and pathogens - these are the results of the analysis of antibacterial agents of the largest marketplaces, conducted after an appeal from the management of a network of beauty salons.
In the course of checking the compositions and chemical analysis of the studied products, the company concluded that over 80% of the antibacterial agents presented do not comply with Russian law, since they do not neutralize bacteria, viruses and pathogens, although this is what their packaging promises.
“Even a superficial review shows that most manufacturers who want to make money on the fight against coronavirus actually sell perfumes and cosmetics like gels and solutions, calling them antimicrobial, bactericidal and the like”, - says Alexey Yermakov, Deputy General Director of Ingal LLC, a manufacturer of medical devices and professional cosmetic products. "Their composition is only remotely similar to the composition of the disinfectants. For example, for a disinfectant, it is necessary to maintain the concentration of the active component at a level sufficient for antimicrobial activity, that is, at least 60% by weight, which is indicated in the composition. In addition, they should not contain components that block the antimicrobial effect of the active substance. For perfumery products such requirements are not presented, their antimicrobial activity is not controlled. Thanks to such subtleties, the manufacturer can significantly save on ingredients and offer the buyer a cheaper, but inefficient product”.
The data of the Russian company are also confirmed by the scandals that have become more frequent all over the world, related both to false promises of protection against the virus and to mass arrests of distributors of counterfeit goods. For example, only in March-April, the 30 largest manufacturers of disinfectants received warnings from the FDA about the inconsistency of marketing information with the real situation. The first on this list was Prefense. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA) has publicly called for the use of non-alcoholic hand products from Purell and Germ-X for disinfection. Companies tried to neutralize the campaign by saying they were using benzalkonium chloride. In response, the agency gave a detailed explanation that this component does not kill the virus, but only reduces the growth of pathogenic microbes. CDC recommends products containing at least 60% alcohol.
The Canadian Ministry of Health revoked the disinfectants of 6 companies, because they contained industrial ethanol, which is harmful to the health of citizens' hands. The French anti-fraud bureau recently reported that the popular Turkish hand sanitizer does not contain enough ethanol to provide antiviral or antibacterial protection, and therefore cannot be used to protect against coronavirus. In the public space of Runet, official reports about the non-compliance of specific products with safety requirements have not yet been received. In Roskachestvo, as in the American CDC, it is recommended to give preference to antiseptics with an alcohol concentration of at least 60%, they warn that individual antiseptics may contain allergens, but there have been no reports of violators of the requirements.
“When using perfumery as a disinfectant, there is a risk of not getting the desired antiseptic effect. And a sufficient number of pathogens will remain on the treated surfaces. This is especially true for viruses with significant resistance, for example, the COVID-19 virus", - recalls Aleksey Yermakov.
The ability of disinfectants to guaranteedly destroy viruses, bacteria and fungi is confirmed by tests in a specialized organization, such as the State Scientific Center for Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology under the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being. During this test, it is determined which groups of viruses and microorganisms are affected by a specific disinfectant. Antimicrobial activity of a disinfectant is mandatory indicated in the product documentation. Based on the results of these tests, Rospotrebnadzor also issues a certificate of state registration.
The increased activity in the production or simulation of pocket antiseptics is understandable, this is one of the most profitable and fast-growing in the world, by the way, that was even before the pandemic. So, in 2017, experts estimated it at $ 2.4 billion and predicted growth to $ 3 billion by 2024 (link to the study). The report, dated April 2020, predicts a market growth of $ 12.25 billion by 2024. Outbreaks of various strains of influenza in the zero and 2010s influenced the popularity of sanitizers. For example, in 2009, during the swine flu epidemic, sales of hand sanitizers in the United States grew by 71%.
A similar situation is developing in Russia. Many local brands began to urgently produce and sell antiseptics. The price of sanitizers in Russia in the last month began to decline rapidly, according to experts, mainly due to the simplification of the composition.