COVID-19 has been one of the biggest pandemics of our lifetimes. There are now over 25 million confirmed cases globally.
The disease is highly infectious and is transmitted from person-to-person through respiratory droplets in the air that are produced by coughing, sneezing or saliva. COVID-19 can also be contracted through contact with contaminated surfaces.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - like the disposable face masks and gloves that are made of polyamide fabric - are being used throughout global healthcare and by the public as a precautionary measure to slow down the transmission rate of the disease.
However, PPE isn’t perfect. Multiple reports suggest that face masks can be a source of viral transmission themselves, when touched or disposed of improperly.
Antimicrobial polymers (also known as polymeric biocides) are putting a stop to this. These polymers are used as an additive to prevent the spread of the bacteria in plastic materials, like polyamide fabric.
It’s through these antimicrobial additives that reusable face masks are created.
Reusable face masks reduce the chances of viral transmission person-to-person, while also protecting the end-users from contamination during lengthy mask wearing. This helps limit shortages in PPE thanks to prolonged use and reduces the spread of the virus.
Antimicrobial polymers reduce the presence of microbes, such as bacteria and mould, on the surface and within plastics.
This is helpful when combating COVID-19, preventing the virus from spreading on plastic surfaces. According to reports, modified plastics have limited COVID-19 viability to four hours, opposed to the three days that it can survive on standard plastics.
There are four mains types of Antimicrobial Additives that are based on silver ion, copper, zinc and organic technologies:
There are many applications for antimicrobial technology due to the world’s reliance on plastic. This means antimicrobial modified plastics can combat COVID-19 and other viruses in many ways. They’re not just limited to just face masks or PPE.
Antimicrobial technology make the plastic products we handle in our day-to-day lives safer: phone cases, water bottles, you name it.
Let’s look at public transport specifically. Applying antimicrobials to the interior touch points of public transport such as bars, handles, seating textiles, buttons, switches and panels will instantly make public transport safer.
All these areas are in constant contact with passengers, making them prime spots for the spread of diseases like COVID-19 and influenza. Applying antimicrobials here, minimalizes the spread from happening.
UK-based antimicrobial company, BioCote, are directly combating the pandemic in partnership with Contour Heating Products by providing a new health check station for monitoring temperatures.
As the public return to work and schools as part of the ‘new normal’, the station will be used to support voluntary temperature checks for health and safety procedures. BioCote’s technology will help minimise the risk in the procedures, reducing the spread of bacteria via the plastic surfaces.
Other exciting companies applying their antimicrobial technology in ways to specifically combat COVID-19 include Steritouch, Add Master and Sanitized AG. Microban, PolyOne Corporation and Plastics Color Corporation are also providing antimicrobial solutions in the wider markets.
The benefits of antimicrobials are clear, with their importance elevated by the global pandemic and the scope to apply these advantages to multiple industries.
However, environmental concerns have restricted growth of this exciting technology in the past. Research initiatives by environmental institutions like Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggest that anti-bacterial chemicals constitute a significant portion of soil and water contaminants.
Many antimicrobial additives manufacturers have responded via innovation, launching new compositions to meet the safe disposal and anti-bacterial properties criterion. For example, Microban, have developed an anti-microbial additive that has undergone extensive testing and now has a long history of safe use complying with the EPA.
Microban aren’t alone, with more companies now producing greener solutions. As a recruiter specialising in the plastics and polymers market, I’m excited to see this market grow and more companies enter the space with innovative technology to help make the world a safer place.
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