To stem the spread of the highly-contagious Covid-19, washing exposed body parts with antivirus materials like alkaline soap or alcohol-based hand sanitiser is a must.
When community transmission of the virus began in Bangladesh, conscious citizens from all walks of life responded very rapidly to the mandatory health manual. Therefore, the demand for several hand sanitiser brands, which had merely been used for medical purposes a few months earlier, suddenly grew rapidly.
Simultaneously, unscrupulous businesses sprouted up, selling fake hand sanitiser to capitalise on the extraordinary demand.
When the news broke that law enforcement had busted fake hand sanitiser manufacturing units in different parts of the country, citizens' concerns over the quality of popular hand sanitiser brands also grew.
To address such worries, The Business Standard provided seven samples of hand sanitiser – Sepnil, Hexisol, Sanityza, Savlon, Lifebuoy, Hexion, and Care-On – from different brands to the state-owned research facility Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), on July 12, for laboratory tests.
The BCSIR chemical analysis found that the alcohol levels in all six samples were higher than the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
As per the WHO, hand sanitiser containing at least 60 percent alcohol or a "persistent antiseptic" should be used to kill viruses.
According to the BCSIR analysis, 50ml of Sepnil from Square Toiletries contains 70.07 percent alcohol.
Since 2013, Square has been manufacturing Sepnil Instant Hand Sanitiser. In its product promotion, Square claims that the use of Sepnil can remove 99.9 percent germs.
Malik Mohammed Sayeed, head of operations at Square Toiletries, said for extra effectiveness, Sepnil is manufactured with an amount of alcohol higher than the minimum standard set by the WHO.
Malik added that Sepnil had been a popular hand sanitiser brand even before the novel coronavirus hit the country.
According to Incepta Pharmaceuticals Limited, Sanityza contains 0.5 percent (weight per 100ml) Chlorhexidine Gluconate in 70 percent (volume per volume) isopropyl alcohol B.
Responding to the TBS enquiry, the BCSIR said Sanityza contains 71.57 percent isopropyl alcohol.
It also found 71.13 percent isopropyl alcohol in Hexisol of the Advanced Chemical Industries – while the same company's Savlon sanitiser gel contains 70.50 percent ethanol.
Unilever Bangladesh's Lifebuoy contains 71.01 percent isopropyl alcohol and Ziska Pharmaceuticals' Care-On contains 69.57 percent alcohol, as per the chemical analyses.
Orion Pharma's popular hand sanitiser Hexion also has 70 percent alcohol, the test found.
Ziska Pharmaceuticals' Managing Director Aminul Islam Khan said Care-On was launched in April this year.
"Since the beginning, consumers have found Care-On very user-friendly because of an additional amount of alcohol that reduces stickiness. We are trying our best to keep our product above-standard."
Further, the additional alcohol in hand sanitiser can kill germs more effectively, he added.
The Directorate General of Drug Administration has authorised around 30 pharmaceutical companies to produce hand sanitiser that meets the standard.