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Manufacturing a solution

Chemistry laboratory steps up to fill hand sanitizer gap

Campus and Community

By Sandy Woolfrey-Fahey

Part of fighting the spread of COVID-19 is good and regular hand washing.

When soap and water are unavailable, though, we rely on alcohol-based hand sanitizer — resulting in scarcity in the supply.

Like some local breweries and distilleries who are using their equipment to supply emergency personnel with hand sanitizer, Memorial has found an on-campus solution for the university’s needs.

Stepping up

Memorial’s Department of Chemistry has manufactured 20 litres of hand sanitizer and remains at the ready to produce additional batches should they be required.

The hand sanitizer is being bottled and distributed to critical workers who remain on campus performing important functions for the university.

“We are proud of our employees who stepped up to assist,” said Dion Bennett, supply chain manager with the Faculty of Science’s Procurement Services and Stores. “We have the supplies, knowledge and, most importantly, dedicated staff in the chemistry department and supply chain management who are able to help fill the gap and meet the need for this product.”

Nathalie Vanasse, chemistry supervisory science technician, is producing hand sanitizer for on-campus critical employees.
Photo: submitted

Environmental Health and Safety with the Office of the Chief Risk Officer provided oversight of the production process along with Nick Ryan, chemistry laboratory instructor, and Nathalie Vanasse, chemistry supervisory science technician.

The manufactured hand sanitizer follows the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recipe and guidance of both Health Canada and WHO, ensuring that all regulatory requirements and recommendations have been met.

The final product contains isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerol and water. It is 75 per cent v/v alcohol, thus effective against COVID-19.

Critical employees required to be on campus, like Sally Corcoran with Financial and Administrative Services, can use the hand sanitizer as part of their health and safety plan.
Photo: Submitted

“We are excited to see multiple units work as a team to help ensure the health and safety of Memorial employees,” said Kelly Taylor, industrial hygienist. “Hand hygiene remains an important control against COVID-19.”

More than 150 individual, refillable bottles have been mixed, labeled and filled and 10 larger bottles are ready to meet the ongoing need for hand sanitizer.

“This on-campus production of hand sanitizer is an excellent example of a creative approach to meet demand.” — Deanne Piercey

Users are encouraged to keep their bottles for refilling because even those have been difficult to source. As the supply chain for hand sanitizer remains limited, the laboratory will remain on standby to produce more if demand requires.

“I have never in my career seen global demand for products like we’ve experienced during the pandemic,” said Deanne Piercey, associate director, strategic procurement. “We’ve had to think outside of the box to innovatively identify solutions and this on-campus production of hand sanitizer is an excellent example of a creative approach to meet demand.”

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