To keep safe and stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, essential workers need to keep their hands clean. Global demand for hand sanitizer has never been higher and on the front lines of the pandemic, sanitation supplies are at a premium.
Shortly after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Health Canada sounded the alarm that a shortage was looming, and announced it would expedite licensing for new producers of hand sanitizer.
One of those new producers is Peterborough’s Black’s Distillery –typically a maker of rye, vodka, and gin—which has been seeking donations of hand sanitizer ingredients to keep up production.
Trent’s Faculty of Arts and Science answered the call for support from the community organization, recently donating 140 litres of ethanol originally intended for teaching and research on campus.
“We knew there was demand, with all the news about shortages,” says Dr. Holger Hintelmann, dean of Arts and Science and a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Trent. “The distillery was gearing up to produce more ethanol, but they were between production runs. We were able to help them bridge the gap, and continue to provide sanitizer to local groups and community organizations. Black’s will be distributing it mostly to NGOs, police, fire departments and other frontline workers. These workers need to use hand sanitizer all the time. It’s a really good cause, and we were able to help out.”
Trent’s donation of ethanol will make roughly 170 litres of hand sanitizer, which will be distributed to essential workers. That’s enough for more than 2,000 of the pocket-sized hand sanitizer bottles that workers sometimes carry on the job.
Staff working in Trent’s science facilities originally considered producing hand sanitizer themselves, but decided to donate the ethanol to Black’s because it would yield a greater and more immediate impact. With a commercial bottling operation and distribution infrastructure already in place, the distillery can get the hand sanitizer quickly to those who need it most.
“Ethanol is used as a solvent for conducting many chemical experiments, and is also used in microbiology labs to sterilize equipment,” says Professor Hintelmann. “We always have some ethanol in stock, so we can supply our own research right away. After making a large purchase of ethanol just a few weeks ago for the next academic year, we were happy that we could contribute and make a difference to local efforts that are helping reduce the risk of COVID-19 for essential workers and our community.”