Did You Know…Ion exchange can ensure that hand sanitizers made from ethanol are safe to use?


The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented stress on the supply of personal hygiene materials. To address this increase in demand, manufacturers of corn-based ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) are shifting their production of fuel-grade ethanol to produce ethanol that can be used in hand sanitizers.

When used in hand sanitizers, ethanol has more stringent purity guidelines to protect human health, including restricting the concentration of the carcinogen acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a conventional fermentation byproduct formed from the fermentation of agricultural feedstock and can often be a roadblock in a plant’s conversion to making suitable hand sanitizer grade ethanol.  

Purolite developed a polymeric media that has been shown to reduce acetaldehyde in ethanol to < 50 ppm, which has been recommended by the US FDA as an interim permissible level for fuel-grade ethanol to be used in hand sanitizers. Specific design considerations can be used to reach < 10 ppm acetaldehyde in many cases to meet levels required by US Pharmacopeia specifications. The media is regenerable with common chemicals often already present on a fuel ethanol plant site, and the media can be re-used for multiple acetaldehyde removal cycles. Reports of odor reduction following treatment have also been experienced in field trials, which can help avoid unpleasant smells in the final hand sanitizer product.

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