Can plastics protect us from the Coronavirus? (Part 2)

In part 1 of our Coronavirus series, we presented the half-life results (in hours) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on different surfaces such as Polypropylene (PP), stainless steel, cardboard and in the air. In this post we present different plastic end-use applications helping to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

Plastics for medical devices and personal protection equipment

Just a few weeks ago, plastics industry was mainly in the news for discussing single-use plastic bans and other measurements to minimize plastics use. However, the Coronavirus outbreak, which ended in a pandemic quickly changed the course of the discussions. The whole plastics industry, from polymer manufacturer to plastics processing companies, is being challenged to increase the supply of life-saving medical devices.

Following medical devices are made by the help of plastics and are currently in high demand:

  1. Plastics for medical devices (engineering and high heat performance polymers): components for respiratory equipment including humidifier housings, positive end-expiatory pressure (PEEP) chambers and connectors.
  2. Plastics for additive manufacturing: 3D printing solutions for face shield holding frames. Details of different additive manufacturing applications will be discussed in our third part of this series.
  3. Plastics for personal protection equipment: face shield films made out of several materials such as PET (single use) and Polysulfones (sterilization possible; multiple time use).
Plastics for personal protection equipment: face shield films made out of several materials such as PET (single use) and Polysulfones (sterilization possible; multiple time use). The face shields are stabilized by a 3D printed frame (Source: pixabay.com).

A lot of companies, although Covid-19 impacts themselves (low order intake; safety measurements), show great innovation spirit. They turn their current facilities into producing the much needed parts for ventilation, face shield, and masks.

For example in the US, Prent Corp. dedicated an entire thermoforming production line to make face shields. They extrude scratch-resistant, recycled PETG and shape it afterwards. The extrusion die was developed in just five hours. The main aim is to supply the face shields to the local hospital since it is suffering a personal protection equipment shortage.

Apart of masks and face shields, single-use gloves are needed too. Austrian based rubber product manufacturer Semperit AG quickly reacted. They donated more than 60 million gloves from their Sempermed production facility in Kamunting, Malaysia. Four flights, operated by Austrian Airlines, are needed to bring them to Europe.

Apart of masks and face shields, single-use gloves are needed too (Source: pexels.com).

Hands-free opening of doors

Another creative way on how plastics can prevent the Coronavirus to spread is the application “Freehander” made by moulding company Stolz & Seng. It is a two part system which is mounted over screws onto your door handle. The used plastic is resistant towards aggressive cleaning detergents. Furthermore, the used compound is equipped with a flame retardant which allows using the Freehander in public offices and houses. Stolz & Seng set up a webshop too where you can order the Freehander.

“Freehander” made by moulding company Stolz & Seng (Source: Freehander, Stolz & Seng)

What about our food?

Not only protecting ourselves with face shields and gloves is important. Also protecting the food from germs is vital during the corona crises. Different studies have been kicked off to investigate weather single-use plastics are suitable to protect food from the Coronavirus. The US based Plastics Industry Association wrote a letter to the US Department of Health in which they claimed that:

” single-use products are the most sanitary choice when it comes to many applications.”

What are the plastics industry leaders thinking?

Due to the Coronavirus crisis, the annual technical conference for plastics professionals was moved from San Antonio, US into the online domain. It was named “ANTEC® 2020: The Virtual Edition”. One of the major key note speakers was Mr. Jim Fitterling, CEO of Dow Inc. During his discussion which was led by Plastics News, he stated:

“I’ve never in my career seen a time when our industry was more necessary and indispensable in the fight that we have on display today.”

This statements sums up all the creative and innovate minds working in the plastics industry helping to ease the pain of the corona crisis. Polymeric materials play an important role in the fight against the Coronavirus and also when the Covid-19 crisis is over, plastics will continue to play an important role in our healthcare systems.

We hope to welcome you in part three again which will focus on how additive manufacturing is helping to combat the Coronavirus.


Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

Stay tuned and sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Literature:

https://www.rubbernews.com/coronavirus/semperit-group-sending-millions-rubber-gloves-austria-help-fight-covid-19

https://www.4spe.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3697

https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2020/04/01/Plastic-packaging-Hero-or-villain-in-the-coronavirus-era#.XoUIeKnzNuN.linkedin

https://www.plasticstoday.com/medical/thermoformers-step-produce-protective-gear-healthcare-workers/49704222062744

https://www.plasticstoday.com/business/plastics-workers-unsung-heroes-battle-against-covid-19/107038555662677

Can plastics protect us from the Coronavirus? (Part 1)

Every country is now affected by the new SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID 19. In many countries, measures have been taken to keep the spread of infections at a minimum. Numerous appeals by famous people call on fellow human beings adhere to social distancing as well as staying at home.

Arnold Schwarzenegger calls on people to stay at home.

Arnold also stays at home and only goes out for his workout or shopping. However, also when shopping, people should keep a distance of 1-2 meters to other people.

That’s why many people use online shopping more frequently and receive their goods in packages. Someone in the warehouse packs the items and someone else delivers the package. These are potential threats where the virus could get onto the package.

And that is the point on which this title focuses on: How long does the virus live on surfaces? Can we get infected when touching a surface or a packaging foil?

source: pixabay.com, PIRO4D

In a study by the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine, slightly different results were found.

The exact risk of virus transmission cannot be deduced from laboratory tests, as the experiments were carried out under controlled conditions.

After 30, 60, 120 and 180 minutes a gelatine filter was used to determine the virus concentration in the air. In another experiment, surfaces made of plastic (polypropylene), stainless steel (AISI 304), copper (99.9%) and commercial cardboard were sprayed and the virus concentration was determined after 1, 4 and 8 hours and after 1, 2, 3 and 4 days.

As well as in the air as on surfaces the viruses were detectable until the end of the experiments. However, their concentration decreased exponentially.

The half-life of the viruses in air was examined in 2 studies and gave different results.

The half-lives for SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 in the air were each 2.74 hours according to the publication in medRxiv. According to the results in the New England Journal of Medicine, the half-life for SARS-CoV-2 in air was only 1.09 hours (95% confidence interval 0.64 to 2.64 hours) and for SARS-CoV-1 1.18 hours (0.78 to 2.43 hours).

Half-life in hours of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on surfaces and in the air.

The half-live of SARS-CoV-2 on copper surfaces is 0.774 hours (0.427 to 1.19 hours). According to the current publication, no “viable” viruses could be detected after 4 hours. It took 3.46 hours (2.34 to 5 hours) on cardboard, 5.63 hours (4.59 to 6.86 hours) on steel and 6.81 hours (5.62 to 8.17 hours) on plastic until half the viruses had disappeared.

Viability of SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 in Aerosols and on Various Surfaces. (www.nejm.org)

Researchers from Singapore had examined samples from rooms in which patients with COVID-19 were accommodated. According to their report in JAMA, the viruses were detectable on the toilet bowl, washbasin and door handle to the bathroom, while all air samples tested negative.

The concentration of the viruses leading to an infection is also unknown at present. There are probably differences between individuals in this respect.

The National Institute for the Control and Prevention of Viral Diseases in Beijing reports in the American Medical Journal on the analysis of 1,070 samples of excretions taken from 205 patients with COVID-19.

The tests were positive in the bronchial lavage fluid to 93 %. This was followed in frequency by sputum (72 %), nasal swab (63 %), bronchoscopic brush biopsy (46 %), throat swab (32 %), stool samples (29 %) and blood samples (1 %). In contrast, none of 72 urine samples were positive.

In conclusion, the virus SARS-CoV-2 does not exist very long on surfaces like a packaging foil or on the package itself, made of cardboard. We do not recommend to be careless about touching surfaces, e.g. when being shopping, but the data shown above indicates the virus can not spread easily through surfaces. In the end we can be happy that plastics and other packaging materials protect goods like food or articles of daily use.


Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

Stay tuned and sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Articles:

N van Doremalen, et al. Aerosol and surface stability of HCoV-19 (SARS-CoV-2) compared to SARS-CoV-1. The New England Journal of Medicine. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973 (2020). link

Air, Surface Environmental, and Personal Protective Equipment Contamination by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) From a Symptomatic Patient, JAMA, 2020; doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.3227 link

Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Different Types of Clinical Specimens, JAMA. 2020; doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.3786 link