Growing Consumer Demand for Antimicrobial Treated Products
Consumer awareness regarding the importance of antimicrobials is growing. Recent Market Research by Transparency Market Research indicates that a portion of that growth is owed to the widespread outbreaks of life threatening diseases and the increased recognition of nosocomial infections. This has led to an increase in the demand for antimicrobials in the medical and healthcare sector as well as on consumer goods. One segment in particular, the antimicrobial plastic market, is witnessing rapid growth in the developing regions of Asia Pacific as there is an increase in the use of plastics in that region and many large scale plastic manufacturers that have begun using antimicrobial additives in their products. The rising demand for antimicrobial treated products is focusing on cost-effective, eco-friendly products that benefit from the advanced properties that Antimicrobials provide.
Clothing textiles are in close contact with the microorganisms of the skin and those of the environment. The clothes create a warm and often moist environment on the skin, which leads to the growth of bacteria. In some cases, these microorganisms lead to unpleasant odors, staining, fabric deterioration and even physical irritation, like skin allergies and skin infections. The skin consists of various niches, each with its specific bacterial community present. Very dry areas, such as the forearm, trunk and legs, harbor only 102 bacteria per cm2, while the axillae, umbilicus and toe web spaces contain up to 107 bacteria per cm2. The human skin contains up to 19 different phyla and even in one niche, the axillae, up to 9 different phyla are present. Skin microorganisms transfer to the clothing fibers and interact with these in several phases: adherence, growth and damage to the fibers. Growth of bacteria is due to sweat secretions, skin desquamation, natural particles present in the clothing fibers or on the fibers itself, or nutrition from elsewhere in the environment. An important factor determining bacteria-fiber interaction is the origin and the composition of the clothing textile. A large discrepancy exists in the way bacteria adhere to natural versus synthetic fibers. It is posed that natural fibers are more easily affected by the microbiota due to the natural nutrients present in the clothing and the ability to adsorb sweat components. Cellulose fibers are degraded by a range of bacteria and fungi, possessing cellulolytic enzymes. Synthetic fibers gather moisture in the free space between the fibers but do not adsorb it on the fibers themselves. Synthetic fibers are therefore less susceptible towards bacterial breakdown, also due to the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) basis of the fiber.
Clothing textiles protect our human body against external factors. These textiles are not sterile and can harbor high bacterial counts as sweat and bacteria are transmitted from the skin. We investigated the microbial growth and odor development in cotton and synthetic clothing fabrics. T-shirts were collected from 26 healthy individuals after an intensive bicycle spinning session and incubated for 28h before analysis. A trained odor panel determined significant differences between polyester versus cotton fabrics for the hedonic value, the intensity and five qualitative odor characteristics. The polyester T-shirts smelled significantly less pleasant and more intense, as compared to the cotton T-shirts. A dissimilar bacterial growth was found in cotton versus synthetic clothing textiles. Micrococci were isolated in almost all synthetic shirts and were detected almost solely on synthetic shirts by means of DGGE fingerprinting. A selective enrichment of micrococci in an in vitro growth experiment confirmed the presence of these species on polyester. Staphylococci were abundant on both cotton and synthetic fabrics. Corynebacteria were not enriched on any textile type. This research found that the composition of clothing fibers promotes differential growth of textile microbes and, as such, determines possible malodor generation.
Is there one correct microbiological test method for every product?
Antimicrobial test methods are generally used as screening tools to assist us in predicting the end-use performance characteristics of our products. Choosing the correct test method for both the active antimicrobial agent used and for the proposed end-use is critical in allowing us to predict functionality in the real-world. In most cases, for non-porous, hard surfaces, test methods that allow for direct inoculation of a test surface would be required. The most suitable Industrial Standard test method for ceramic tiles, for example, would be the ISO 22196 (or JIS Z2801). In this test method, a standard amount of bacteria are applied to a test surface. After a specific time, usually 18-24 hours, the surviving bacteria are retrieved from the surface and counted.
The ability to control microbial populations through direct surface modification techniques at any point during a products life offers tremendous opportunities to improve the overall health of our surroundings. Surfaces free of microbial contamination will reduce odors, will make our products last longer, will be easier to clean, and can assist in reducing infections. However, we must use sensible approaches when controlling these microbes. The antimicrobial agents that are used should control the microbes at the source of contamination, should limit the harmful release of chemicals into our ecosystems and should be produced and screened by responsible companies.
Generic Versus Original Materials and Regulatory Compliance
The choice of antimicrobial agents has grown significantly over the past several years.
Many generic products are produced claiming to have an “identical” composition to
the original. It is critical to understand whether the composition of the antimicrobial
agent that is to used is the exact same as the original source in which the regulatory
data (US EPA, EU BPD) was been generated. Based on past studies it is apparent
that not all antimicrobial technologies that share the same USEPA files are the same.
Hard surfaces exist in indoor and outdoor environments. Hard surface applications
are diverse and can vary from tiled kitchen countertops to swimming pool liners,
yet despite this diversity of use there is a universal problem among all surfaces -
they are constantly exposed to a variety of microbial contaminants. These surfaces
are susceptible to stains, deterioration, biofilm formation and odors caused by
unwanted and often invisible microbial growth.
Controlling microbial growth and contamination with antimicrobial agents
Antimicrobial agents have been used for decades to assist in combating the unwanted
growth of microbes either in/on our bodies or in our environment. Some of these
antimicrobial agents have indeed provided excellent protection from infection,
unpleasant odors and product deterioration but others have been associated with
the development of antimicrobial resistant bacteria and bio-accumulation. Typical
cleaning protocols on hard surfaces will generally include strong sterilizers/
disinfectants which will destroy the microbe within seconds. When improperly
used these products can be damaging to the surfaces and a potential source for the
generation of resistant organisms. This is why it is essential for the application
instructions be strictly adhered to when applying sanitizers and disinfectants.
For decades it has been a common practice to rate the impact of healthcare acquired infections tracked by the CDC in the U.S., and by similar organizations around the world. A focus for preventing these infections gathered significant momentum by July of 2008. The Steering Committee for the Prevention of Healthcare-Associated Infections was created under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The group released an initial action plan in 2009, which made its focus on prevention in acute care hospitals, then ambulatory surgical centers, then end-stage renal disease hospitals.In April 2011, HHS launched a goal of decreasing HAIs by 40% compared with 2010 rates, with 1.8 million fewer injuries to patients and more than 60,000 lives saved over the next three years. Ten strategies were developed and implemented - designed to eventually end all HAI's. These include engagement with:
A growing number of medical devices are utilizing an inherent antimicrobial material approach to provide added performance in a manner that addresses infection risks to patients. Devices like in-dwelling urinary or vascular access catheters, IV components, wound dressings, medical equipment, and implantable devices, all are currently marketed as containing properties to minimize the risk of infection. The question remains; is this enough? With the extensive use of textiles within the hospital environment the concern over the transference of bacteria from one patient to the next on these surfaces need to be addressed in a more extensive manner. More information about how antimicrobial technologies have been shown to reduce bacterial growth in textiles curtailing transference can be obtained by members through the IAC.
If we think of sustainability as a journey, then how are you making progress towards an environmentally and socially responsible destination? In other words, what is your firm doing currently to advance eco initiatives and what is planned to meet sustainability goals in the future?
In the next paragraph you’ll find the IAC response to the above question. The position of the International Antimicrobial Council is based on the premise that sustainability requires the reconciliation of environmental and economic demands to build social equity. These "three pillars" (3-e's) interact with each other to determine the sustainability outcome of any given market action. Put simply, when economic benefit is obtained through the generation of sustainable environmental conditions social equity results.
The International Antimicrobial Council sustainability program involves both internal and external efforts to positively impact the environment. The IAC accomplishes this by working to motivate social behavior that positively-impacts the environment. An example of our external efforts is our promotion of the use of environmentally responsible and durable antimicrobial treatments in textiles, especially in apparel and home fashions. Durable antimicrobials can extend the use of textiles between laundering. Reducing the frequency that consumers launder textiles results in significant water, detergent and energy savings. According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) the average American family washes almost 400 loads of laundry each year. Using a standard clothes washer that family will consume over 12,000 gallons (45.4 m3) of water annually. Because textiles treated with a durable antimicrobial can be used at least twice as long before laundering, the savings are staggering. Considering that 60% of an American family’s laundry is apparel, this will save each household 3600 gallons (13,600L) of water a year. Based on AWE statistics, if their home fashion products are also treated it will save each family a total of 6,000 gallons (22,700L) of water per year. But that’s not all - the detergent and energy savings from reduced washing and drying are also very significant. We applaud the textile industry for the excellent progress they’ve made in significantly reducing the water and energy used during the production of apparel and home fashion products but the greatest socio-economic-environmental savings will be gained by treating textile products with environmentally responsible, durable antimicrobials that reduce the use of water, detergent and energy by the consumer over the lifetime of the textile product. The premise of the IAC program is to help consumers understand that they can save money while being ecologically-minded by simply purchasing textiles with an appropriate odor-control feature.