SABS sets out new standards for hand sanitisers

The amendments specify the requirements for all alcohol-based hand sanitisers and hand rubs in the form of liquids, gels, foams and aerosols.

A person squeezes sanitiser onto their hand.
Global use of hand sanitiser surged in 2020 resulting in the arrival of many new, inexperienced manufacturers whose product packaging often did not include basic information such as the relevant safety information or contact numbers.

CAPE TOWN, April 9 (ANA) – The Covid -19 pandemic has created a need for “hygiene on the go”, with hand sanitiser becoming a staple item for many, according to Emma Corder, managing director of industrial cleaning products manufacturer Industroclean.

She said the global use of hand sanitiser surged in 2020, resulting in the arrival of many new, inexperienced manufacturers whose product packaging often did not include basic information such as the relevant safety information or contact numbers.

“We have seen that the sudden surge in demand for effective alcohol-based hand sanitisers has led to some manufacturers falling short of the national standard, making false claims about the concentration of ingredients and adding counterfeit SABS certification logos to the unverified products,” said Corder.

The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has published the amendments to the national standard, which specifies the requirements for all alcohol-based hand sanitisers and hand rubs in the form of liquids, gels, foams and aerosols that require its approval. The new regulations, which are voluntary, define what is and is not allowed to be in hand sanitisers and gels for the safety of the public.

“Voluntary compliance standards are those standards that make a company stand out above its competitors and demonstrates its commitment to ensure improvement and regulatory compliance,” Corder added.

However, in the early stages of the lockdown last year, she said, South African consumers reported developing rashes and other symptoms as a result of exposure to hand sanitisers dispensed at stores. There was strong concern that some of these products did not include the right kind or percentage of alcohol required for the products to be effective against the coronavirus.

The SABS has now had to tighten regulations, and even though not all hand sanitisers are created equal, manufacturers are now required to submit evidence that their alcohol-based sanitisers will retain efficacy until the date of expiry.

The detailed requirements for hand sanitisers and hand rubs now specify that a minimum of 70% alcohol content is required if alcohol such as ethanol, isopropanol or n-propanol is the main ingredient. Solvents like acetone (propane) are prohibited as it can cause toxicity and even fatalities if absorbed through the skin.

“Some manufacturers use methanol which is cheaper but very toxic, and while some might not be using cheaper alcohol substitutes, they may not be adding enough or the correct emollients which help moisturise the skin,” said Corder.

There have also been changes to what manufacturers are required to reflect on the product packaging, she said.

While washing hands with soap and water followed by properly drying with a clean towel is still preferable to using sanitisers, it is not always possible. When purchasing hand sanitisers and gels, consumers must carefully check the labels to ensure that they are buying good quality, certified products.

The product’s packaging needs to meet requirements that include type of sanitiser, whether it is a liquid or gel, ingredients and type of alcohol, percentage of alcohol and registration number and address of the manufacturer, among others.

– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Yaron Blecher

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