A few insights on the whole Coronavirus and handsanitizer story and why the next time you have an alcohol-free beer or wine…. you will have helped the fight against COVID-19.
Coronavirus spreads via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. If these droplets land on another person and are taken into the body, they may catch Coronavirus. Droplets also land on surfaces which a person may then subsequently touch. This can be another route for the virus to enter the body.
So, stay home, stay apart, wash hands and clean surfaces. This prevents spreading the virus.
How long a virus stays active on a surface depends on many things. You can't kill a virus because it's not technically alive, but you can deactivate it. A well-known way to do this is hand sanitizer or alcohol-based disinfectants. In order to be effective, hand sanitizer or disinfectant must contain at least 60% alcohol, either ethanol and/or isopropanol.
Most of us are familiar with isopropanol from the screen wash in our cars. Most of us are familiar with ethanol from the beers, wines and spirits we regularly consume.
And it’s a combination of the drinks and chemicals industries where some amazing work is being done to increase the supply of hand sanitizing disinfectants…
- If you are the designated driver on a night out (remember them!), alcohol-free beer or wine is often better than endless soft drinks. Using highly controlled processes like vacuum distillation and reverse osmosis, regular beer and wine have the alcohol removed from them. Very often, the surplus alcohol is thrown away or burnt. Not any more…. The makers of Freixenet in Wiesbaden, Germany have teamed up with the German chemical company, Merck to concentrate and reuse the surplus alcohol from hundreds of thousands of bottles of fizz to make over 50,000 litres of disinfectant free of charge to local hospitals. Pretty neat eh!
- For those of you who are partial to a G&T, raise your glasses for our local gin distillers Conker. They have switched over their production completely to make hand sanitizer instead of gin. Just don’t try mixing that with tonic, ice and lemon!
- But that’s not all, whilst our government struggles to build up the testing capability for COVID-19, INEOS, the UK chemical company, whose founder Sir Jim Ratcliffe lives in the New Forest, has managed to create a whole new factory to make one million bottles of hand sanitizer gel per month in 10 days, based on the isopropanol and ethanol it produces from North Sea gas. Plus, they are donating it to the NHS for free!
So, the next time you have an alcohol-free beer or wine…. you will have helped the fight against COVID-19. And the next time you think that all chemicals are bad, please think again…
This was first discussed with Kelly Webb on Radio Wimborne, April 3rd 2020.