A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that on any given day in the United States, 1 in 25 patients acquires at least one nosocomial infection. Despite healthcare agencies taking every measure to bring down the number of nosocomial infections or hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), the deaths and costs attributed to the same remain worryingly high. The consequences imposed by HAIs on healthcare budgets are significant.
Nosocomial infections manifest themselves in the form of gastrointestinal illnesses, pneumonia, infections of the urinary tract or bloodstream, as well as surgical-site infections. This brings the importance of disinfectants that kill pathogens to the fore. However, it’s not just hospitals where the risk of germs passing from one person to another is high – the demand for disinfectants, especially the alcohol-based ones, is also high in schools, offices, and households.
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Hand sanitizers are becoming the most widely-used types of alcohol-based disinfectants. Market intelligence firm Transparency Market Research forecasts in its report that the global alcohol-based disinfectants market will report a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.0% between 2014 and 2020, by which year it will touch US$2.18 bn.
However, despite this aspect, there are a few conflicting opinions pertaining to the use of hand sanitizers. Let’s take a brief look at some of them:
- Food and beverage industry restricts use of hand sanitizers: The FDA Food Code recommends that workers in the food and beverage industry use hand sanitizers only after they have washed their hands properly using soap and water. Not all hand sanitizers are proven effective in killing norovirus, which restricts the use of hand sanitizers in the food industry. Moreover, foodworkers often come into direct contact with blood and fatty materials, which greatly reduces the efficacy of hand sanitizers.
- Study finds alcohol-based hand sanitizer effective on moderately soiled hands: Research published in the Journal of Water and Health studied the efficacy of alcohol-based hand sanitizers on workers’ hands soiled with cooking oil and dirt. The purpose of the study was to determine if such hand sanitizers could prove effective in scenarios where water is in short supply or in underserved regions where soap and clean water are not always available (a factor that consequently contributes to the high occurrence of respiratory illnesses and diarrhea). The findings of the research showed that the presence of cooking oil and dirt on hands did not significantly shield the antimicrobial properties of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Natural hand sanitizers are catching on: Conventional alcohol-based hand sanitizers are perceived by some consumers as being laden with chemicals. This has created a white space for the introduction of all-natural hand sanitizers. EO Products, for instance, has launched a range of hand sanitizers that are made of non-GMO alcohol, are free of parabens and synthetic fragrances. CleanWell hand sanitizers make use of a patented formula that kills germs using thyme extracts. The demand for all-natural hand sanitizers will likely impact the overall demand for alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
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Currently, the most widely used alcohol-based disinfectants in both commercial and medical applications are: Ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, n-propyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol. Alcohol-based disinfectants have seen widespread adoption in recent years thanks to their ease of use and perceived efficacy in killing germs – factors that weigh considerably in their favor. With non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers still several years away from garnering a substantial market share, the alcohol-based sanitizers will continue to dominate.