The head of Australia's largest producer of sterilants, disinfectants and cleaning products has cautioned against experimenting with DIY hand sanitiser recipes.
The current shortage of sanitiser products has been compounded by a national shortage of pharmaceutical-grade ethanol that the company relies on to produce cleaning and disinfecting products for hospitals and healthcare facilities.
A number a boutique brewing distilleries are attempting to fill the void in the consumer market by adapting their equipment to produce hand sanitiser.
At the same time DIY recipes, mostly involving commercially available alcohol products and hand lotions, are flooding social media.
Executive Chairman of Whiteley Corporation Dr Greg Whiteley said many of these recipes posed a serious health and safety risk.
"Pharmaceutical alcohol is incredibly dangerous. There's a reason why it is regulated in the same way as over the counter medicines," Dr Whiteley, an adjunct professor at the School of Medicine at Western Sydney University and member of the Australian Society of Microbiology, said.
"There are already stories of people getting burnt from homemade products. Anyone who thinks they can put it into the bathtub and mix it up as a bar mix should get ready to end up in emergency with third degree burns."
Dr Whiteley said the company's Newcastle-based operation was running 12 hour shifts in an effort to meet "skyrocketing" demand.
"We are running at about 120 per cent of what we thought was 100 per cent capacity and we are looking to further extend that," he said.
"We have just about doubled our workforce but because we are a therapeutic goods manufacturer it takes time to induct and train people properly."
Qantas, is also using the company's hospital-grade disinfectant, Viraclean, to clean its aircraft that arrive from overseas.
The pink, lemon-scented liquid kills a range of bacteria and viruses including Hepatitis B and herpes simplex.
But the company's biggest challenge was the shortage of pharmaceutical-grade ethanol. The shortage has been compounded by a four-fold increase in the price of the raw material over the past month.
Dr Whiteley has been in constant contact with the office of Health Minister Greg Hunt in an effort to resolve the shortage.
He has called on the government to set aside a portion of ethanol production for the medical sector ahead of a forecast peak in coronavirus cases, which is likely to put unprecedented strain on the hospital system.
"This is the problem when you don't look after your local manufacturing base .... when there's a crisis you quickly run out of critical supplies," he said.
Dr Whiteley said demand began to rise at the end of January, initially from local companies and wholesalers.
"We would have expected our domestic medical channels, which make up 75 per cent of our volume, to be driving that, but initially it was our community and industrial supply channels. Now it is across the board," he said.
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