MAR 27, 2020 6:00 AM PDT

Hand Sanitizer Shorage: Liquor, Perfume, and Medication Producers Joined the Race to Restock the Shelves

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan


Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the habit of thorough and frequent handwashing are among the best defense against the contagious disease. But when soap and water aren't available, hand sanitizers become the second line of defense. But as the main brand producers are struggling to resupply, pharmacies and grocery stores have problems restocking their empty shelves with the gel-like handrub.

Two months ago, Hovione, a Portugal-based pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturer, faced a shortage of hand sanitizers at its plant in Macau during the first wave of COVID outbreak in China. The chemical company decided immediately that they would start manufacturing the much needed germ-killing liquid themselves.

Hovione isn't alone. Many other corporations that are involved in chemical manufacturing, alcohol production, and ingredient compounding have recently joined the race to supply market with the liquid disinfectant. Among them there are big names in various indutries, such as German chemical giant BASF, British gin and rum producer Psychopomp & Circumstance Distillery, Swiss fragrance manufacturer Firmenich, and global beer brewer Anheuser-Busch.

Making hand sanitizers isn't rocket science. According to many D.I.Y. sites, you only need to assemble several easy-to-acquire ingredients: rubbing alcohol (99% at minimum), aloe vera gel, and inexpensive essential oil. As long as the final product has at least 60% alcohol content, it would be effective in killing bacteria and viruses alike.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also published its own recommended formula for manufacturers to follow, which contains (by volume) 75% isopropyl alcohol, 1.45% glycerol, and 0.13% hydrogen peroxide.

Hovione dedicated a small team and a production facility just outside Lisbon, the Portugese capital, for hand sanitizer production. To meet the regional need, they expect to raise the production volume to five metric tons mid-March and six times more towards late March.

With the increasing number of specialty chemical manufacturers racing to keep our hand clean, it is hopeful that our healthcare system, as well as ordinary citizens, can have access to the hand-disinfecting essential. 

How do hand sanitizers work (ACS Reactions)

Source: C&EN

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
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