Newswise – Chula Pharmaceutical Science is helping increase public confidence to keep COVID-19 at bay with its new test kit to verify the safety and effectiveness of hand sanitizers and alcohol-based gels and sprays.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have now become accustomed to the New Normal lifestyle that requires social distancing, frequent hand washing, and disinfection with hand sanitizer and alcohol sprays to clean their hands. hands and their personal effects. But how can we be sure that the products we use are safe for our health and effective in cleaning and disinfecting?
Ass. Professor Supakarn Chamni, Department of Pharmacognosy and Pharmaceutical Botany, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, explained the problems with hand sanitizer gels and sprays as they appeared in the media and reported by the Smart Buy Testing Center , The Foundation for Consumers.
“Sixty-seven percent of the products studied have an alcohol concentration of less than 70% by volume, which is not enough to kill germs. In addition, these products have been found to be contaminated with harmful chemicals that could irritate the respiratory tract and, if they get into the eyes, can cause blindness.
Based on these concerns, Asst. Teacher. Dr. Supakarn has developed the QEST 3-in-1 alcohol test kit to allow the public to verify for themselves the standards and safety of alcohol and disinfectants.
“This test can analyze both the type and concentration of alcohol to confirm the effectiveness of its cleaning and disinfecting properties in reducing the risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading. “
Know the different types of alcohol
Alcohol has antimicrobial properties against viruses, bacteria and fungi, killing or stopping the growth of microbes and therefore can be used to clean and disinfect the skin and various surfaces.
There are different types of alcohols depending on their chemical structures:
Ethanol and isopropanol are the types of alcohol used for human consumption. Ethanol is the alcohol present in alcohol. It can be used both externally and orally. It is the most expensive compared to other types of alcohol. Isopropanol is reserved for external use, for example to cleanse wounds.
Methanol is an alcohol used in the fuel industry. It is a solvent in the paint industry and a precursor in the plastics industry.
All three types of alcohol have similar characteristics. They are all clear, colorless liquids that evaporate easily and are flammable. The only difference is the smell.
“Isopropanol used to cleanse wounds has a pungent odor, while ethanol and methanol have a sweet odor. Therefore, it is difficult to distinguish them olfactorily ”, Asst. Professor Dr Supakarn warned of the potential danger if unscrupulous manufacturers mix methanol with alcohol hand sanitizer.
Methanol poisoning and symptoms
Methanol is highly toxic to humans and must not be inhaled, left in contact with the skin or, under any circumstances, ingested. Those who work with methanol should wear masks and gloves to protect themselves.
Exposure to more than 40 mg / kg of methanol or inhalation of more than 200 ppm per day can cause nausea, vomiting, breathing problems, bronchitis, and even blindness and death.
Ass. Professor Dr Supakarn cited incidents in foreign countries as a warning of the dangers of methanol. “In 2020, 1,000 deaths were reported from methanol-contaminated alcohol in countries like Iran, Russia and Mexico, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) showed that 15 people in Arizona and New Mexico have accidentally been reported. ingested alcohol-based hand sanitizer – four died and three became blind.
Basic blood alcohol test that you can do yourself
“Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have become essential items to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, consumers must be able to verify the efficacy and safety of products themselves, ”said Asst. said Professor Dr Supakarn.
“The QEST 3-in-1 Breath Alcohol Test Kit can test both pure alcohol and alcohol based gel and liquid products, or even products with added colors and scents. The chemicals used for the tests are safe and have been certified by the National Metrology Institute (Thailand).
The test kit can detect all three types of alcohol: ethanol, isopropanol or methanol, and can specify the concentration of ethanol in the range of 30-90% (± 10%) by volume (v / v) in three to five minutes.
“The test is easy to use. Measure one ml. of the alcohol sample in the container provided. Then add five drops of the first solution which is an alkaline solution, and add one drop of the second solution which is green. Close the cap, shake well and observe the color change after three minutes to interpret the result according to the color chart ”, Asst. Professor Dr Supakarn explained.
Ethanol is displayed in orange, but if the result is yellow, it means it is methanol. Isopropanol is displayed in gradients.
For the analysis of the ethanol concentration, read the result after 3 minutes. If 80% v / v ethanol is present, an orange precipitate will form. With 70% v / v ethanol, the solution will turn orange, and if there is less than 70% v / v ethanol, the solution will be brown or greenish brown.
“Quality alcohol can kill germs. The test result should be orange, ”Asst said. The teacher. Dr. Supakarn reminded us of this.
How to store alcohol for a long time
Alcohol is a volatile substance at room temperature, so care should be taken when storing and choosing the right container.
“Putting alcohol in a large-neck pump bottle will allow the alcohol to evaporate more easily than a spray bottle. Alcohol should be stored in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Do not leave the cover open and do not leave it in the sun for a long time. Once opened or repackaged in other containers, the expiration date changes.
The duration of use depends on the environment. Ass. Professor Dr Supakarn suggested that “if you put (the alcohol) in a bag and stay in an air-conditioned office, it will last about six months. If placed outside the building, it will last three months. Do not put alcohol in the car, as alcohol can evaporate and permeate the passenger compartment, and could produce sparks if exposed to a lighter or charging port. This can be dangerous. “
Drink alcohol safely and avoid illnesses
Ass. The teacher. Dr. Supakarn reiterated the guidelines for the safe use of alcohol which “Every time after touching public objects, you should sanitize your hands with a hand sanitizer containing 70% v / v ethanol by rubbing the sanitizer evenly over all areas of the fingers, palms and wrists for at least 30 seconds. “
“If you touch alcohol and it is no longer cold to the touch, or if the alcohol has abnormal characteristics such as stratification, coagulation, sedimentation or discoloration, do not use it. “
Finally, Asst. Professor Dr Supakarn advised consumers to buy alcohol-based disinfectant gel and spray from reputable sources, with a label showing the registration number and expiration date. And if you are not sure how effective the product is, you can also check it with the QEST 3-in-1 Alcohol Test Kit.
“If the tested product has an ethanol alcohol content of less than 70%, or if methanol is found, you can send the tested sample for confirmation to the Bureau of Cosmetics and Hazardous Substances, Department of Medical Sciences, Ministry of Health public “, Asst. said Professor Dr Supakarn.
The QEST 3-in-1 Alcohol Test Kit is available at Osotsala, Faculty of Pharmacy, Chulalongkorn University, Tel. 0-2218-8428-9. (A test kit is priced at 200 baht containing 10 tests).