Finding store shelves emptied of essential products has been an alarming and frustrating experience for consumers, including myself, in the United States and numerous other countries. When shoppers find bare store shelves instead of those typically packed with hand sanitizers, an inconvenience becomes a matter of personal safety in protecting oneself and loved ones from the coronavirus.
The shortage prompted the FDA to weigh in on the topic on March 20.
“We are aware of significant supply disruptions for alcohol-based hand sanitizers,” said Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. “Many manufacturers make hand sanitizers, and several have indicated that they are working to increase supply. We will continue to work with manufacturers, compounders, state boards of pharmacy and the public to increase the supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer available to Americans.”
However, that lack of availability for consumers repeats a similar critical need for hospitals and pharmacies.
Plastic makers to the rescue.
Two plastics companies that manufacture polymers, Dow Europe and Ineos, have stepped up with a solution: Taking the key ingredients the polymer producers already have available and redirect their use to make sanitizers and help address the shortfall.
Ineos is the leading European producer of the two key raw materials needed for sanitizers, isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and ethanol. It announced March 24 it would build a hand sanitizer plant near Middlesbrough to produce one million bottles of sanitizer monthly within 10 days. The company stated that these will be produced according to World Health Organisation specifications and be specifically designed to kill bacteria and viruses.
It can produce hospital-grade hand sanitizer at its sites in Grangemouth, Scotland, and in northern Germany, making almost one million tonnes/1.1 million tons yearly.
Due to the critical shortage of hand sanitizers across Europe, Ineos expects to concentrate on meeting the needs of front-line medical and care services as well as making the “pocket bottle” hand sanitizers for personal use for people across the UK and Europe. It will supply free products to hospitals.
A visit to the www.ineoshandgel.com had this notice posted: “Members of the public are requested not to contact us. This form is for medical and wholesale only. You will soon find stocks available in stores.”
Lead image: Goffkein/Adobe Stock
Next: Dow mobilizes into hand sanitizer production.
With hand sanitizer supplies running out in Germany, the Federal Ministry of Health asked the industry for support.
On March 23, Dow announced after assessing its capability to manufacture hand sanitizers at its facilities in Germany, the Stade site in Lower Saxony was identified as having the necessary raw material handling, mixing, and bulk packaging equipment to conduct hand sanitizer production.
Starting March 20, up to 15 tons of hand sanitizers have been produced daily — approximately 300 tons per month or up to 600,000 standard bottles of 500-mL each. The disinfectant is filled into Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC) and will then be made available to government authorities for distribution to pharmacies and hospitals free of charge. The first deliveries are expected to ship March 24 and will primarily go to the most urgently needed places in the district of Stade, but also to other regions, such as Berlin. In addition, further quantities of raw materials for hand sanitizers will also be produced in the coming weeks, which can then be delivered to around 377 clinics throughout Germany.
Dow does not regularly produce hand sanitizer, but a large proportion of the required ingredients are already produced at the company's German sites. The company intends to continue producing these and providing them to hospitals and pharmacies in need until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides or until disinfectants are no longer in short supply in Germany.
"COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge that we all together are facing every day. I am very proud that within a few days only our colleagues have made it possible for us to make a small but very important contribution to overcoming the pandemic," says Ralf Brinkmann, president Dow Germany. "I would like to take this opportunity to thank the regulatory authorities, the German Chemical Association (VCI) and the Association of Pharmacists and Hospitals for their rapid and unbureaucratic corporation on this urgent request.”
Custom formulation uses biofuel.
The hand sanitizer is produced in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines under a pharmacist’s supervision. It consists of 80% ethanol — Dow will be using bioethanol — 4% hydrogen peroxide solution, and 15% water. Dow will also add 1% glycerine for hand care.
The basic prerequisite for the production permit is the official and legal approval by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA). BAuA approved the production in accordance with the general ruling on the approval of biocidal products containing 2-propanol for hygienic hand disinfection in accordance with Article 55 paragraph 1 of Regulation (EU) No. 528/2012.
In order to enable an even distribution of the limited quantity, the Association of the Chemical Industry and the Association of Pharmacists and Hospitals are jointly responsible for coordination. Hospitals and pharmacies in need should contact the associations directly.
Dow expanding sanitizer production at additional sites including NA.
After assessing capabilities to manufacture hand sanitizer at facilities around the world, Dow announced mid-morning March 30 that manufacturing sites in Auburn, MI; South Charleston, WV; Seneffe, Belgium; and Hortolândia, Brazil, have the necessary raw material handling, mixing and packaging capabilities and will produce hand sanitizer. These locations join Dow’s site in Stade, Germany.
Although Dow does not typically produce hand sanitizer, a large portion of the required raw materials are readily available at plant sites. Also, Dow’s asset flexibility allows for a meaningful volume of sanitizer to be produced with little to no impact to normal operations.
Dow collaborated with local officials to understand their needs and requirements and to fast-track the permitting, licensing and raw material procurement processes.
The Auburn site can produce approximately 15,000 pounds of hand sanitizer weekly, representing nearly 30,000 eight-ounce bottles. Similar or greater volumes are expected to be produced at the other Dow locations. At full production, total output is expected to reach more than 440,000 pounds, the equivalent of more than 880,000 eight-ounce bottles. Production of hand sanitizer will occur for approximately four weeks in the four Dow sites announced today, after which Dow will assess extending production based on raw material availability and market need.
All hand sanitizer that will be produced has been allocated with the majority for donation to health systems and government agencies for distribution. Hand sanitizer will also be distributed to Dow production sites to help protect employees who are on the frontline and ensuring Dow’s manufacturing facilities continue to run safely. First deliveries are expected to begin this week.
“We are proud to put our global assets to work to help combat the spread of the coronavirus,” said Jim Fitterling, Dow’s chief executive officer. “We intend to continue producing hand sanitizer as long as raw materials are available and supply is short.”
Said Michigan Governor Whitmer, “This action from Dow and its hardworking employees will help us protect more Michigan families and slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state. I’m proud to work with Dow and every business that steps up during this time to protect Michigan families.”