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March 12th 2021

Are antimicrobials the answer?

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic many businesses and brands have jumped on the bandwagon making claims that their products can prevent the spread of infection, particularly that of COVID-19. Even clothing manufacturers such as LJ Shield in Australia marketed its line of activewear as “antiviral” only to receive significant backlash from medical professionals, and to later withdraw their claims, swiftly changing their claim to be “antibacterial”.

Any products making such claims have to be verified with the relevant organisations – ECHA (European Chemicals Agency), EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration, leaving little room for error or false advertising, yet still companies are running the risk and spending money on marketing efforts without the approval in place.

With so many antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral products on the market, what impact are false claims really having on consumers?

The main issue with consumers having a new-found confidence in products that they are assume are safe is a potential relaxed approach towards government health advice such as hand sanitation and mask wearing at a critical time when hygiene should be more paramount than ever.

To start to address some of the confusion around this area, we look at the hot topics that consumers are asking (and Googling!) to bring some clarity to the claims that we’re now surrounded by in our new world…

What’s the difference between antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral?

The word ‘antiviral’ in itself is a strong statement for any company to make, as the definition means – protecting against viruses that attack the body. The definition of antimicrobial on the other hand is that is inhibits the growth of, or destroys harmful micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi and moulds. And an antibacterial specifically prevents the growth of bacteria.

So, all of these terms have quite different definitions, and it’s obviously important to know the difference when it comes to selecting the products that we buy and not to class all of these terms as ‘doing the same thing’.

Do any of these claims mean that regular cleaning can be substituted?

In a word, no. If we take synthetic media as an example which could be used to print menus, medical documents and signage, regular cleaning is still needed. The difference however is in the coatings, as some materials such as KernowPrint Dry Toner utilise a unique coating that provides resistance to most liquids including anti-bacterial cleaners, rubbing alcohol, hospital grade cleaning materials and contaminants. Cheaper synthetics won’t withstand rigorous cleaning with such products (including sanitiser) which means that both the print quality and hygiene can be compromised through deterioration.

When we talk about antimicrobial, our KernowPrint antimicrobial solution is powered by Biomaster and goes a step further, pro-actively preventing/disrupting the growth of bacteria on treated product surfaces, reducing opportunities for bacterial/fungal growth. It also inhibits the growth of common food-poisoning bacteria on treated surfaces and is completely safe to use in food and water applications.

What standards/accreditations should materials meet?

It’s easy to make the assumption that any company making any form of claim can back it up, but sometimes this isn’t the case. In the UK ISO are the benchmark, and ISO 22196 provides a method of evaluating the antibacterial activity of antibacterial-treated plastics, and other non-porous, surfaces of products.

With new KernowPrint antimicrobial, the results are excellent, with coverage meeting ISO 22196 testing parameters and the CFU count for both E coli and staph aureus have been reduced to below the detection limit for both 50% and 100% print areas after 24 hours, giving reductions of >99%, thanks to Biomaster technology.

What is antimicrobial made of?

The Biomaster product that we use is based on silver ion technology, recognised for centuries with no harmful effects. Biomaster is used in medical, food and water applications. Some antimicrobials use nano-silver technology, but Biomaster avoid this due to ongoing safety concerns.

Predictions for living in the ‘new normal’ will no doubt include a growing demand for antimicrobial technologies for applications across a broad range of industries, predominantly healthcare and hospitality. Claims made by companies are going to have to become far more regulated and substantiated, to ensure that the general public are making an informed decision on the products that they buy.

Go here for more information about KernowPrint antimicrobial.

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