Things are gradually opening up again, and the health emergency, especially in the most badly hit geographical areas, put the priority on daily cleaning and sanitizing of spaces, work areas and common zones. The technical guidelines of Inail leave more precise specifications to the individual protocols of safety measures for single sectors.
Cleaning as per protocol
We know, however, that workstations, dressing rooms, corporate vehicles, shared areas and vending machines should be constantly sanitized.
Every worker should implement the process in their own area, using products supplied by the company, focusing on the start and end of each work session in a particular spot, depending on the situation. If the workstation will be used by multiple staff over the course of the same day, each worker should sanitize before use. By workstations we mean tables, desks, keyboards, mouses, touchscreens, keypads, vending machines, and all other kinds of equipment.
But what are the real dangers of virus transmission from the surfaces we touch?
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the CDC in the US, the University of California in Los Angeles and Princeton University, have simulated the ways with which the virus, expelled in coughs and sneezes, or propagated by contaminated hands, is deposited on the surfaces around us. They have discovered that the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 can survive up to three days on plastic and stainless steel, although its infectivity is halved after 7 and 6 hours, respectively. The novel coronavirus resists on copper just 4 hours, and not more than 24 on cardboard. On these two materials, the virus halves in infectivity after 2 and 5 hours.
We know it is impossible to disinfect all the surfaces with which we may come into contact, but ease of cleaning and the possibility of reducing infectivity have become two indispensable factors to guarantee safety in shared facilities.
Not just surface finishes, but process solutions
This is the direction, in recent years, of many brands that have implemented production of products with high bacteriostatic levels, often effective throughout the lifecycle of the produced solutions.
“We have chosen not to work on a surface finish,” says Pier Luigi Corti, sales director of Abet Laminati, “but to incorporate antimicrobic substances directly into the decorative layer of our products.”
Lamishield is the stratified material by Abet Laminati obtained with additives in the production processes of powders produced by BioCote® which exploit the intrinsic natural properties of silver ions to ensure continuous, built-in protection, active for the entire product life cycle. The laboratory trials conducted in compliance with European standard ISO 22196:2011 demonstrate that surfaces clad with Lamishield reduce bacterial charge up to 99.9%.
Another giant in the world of finishes, Akzo Nobel, chose many years ago to create a line of coatings in antimicrobial powder, Interpon AM, relying on the same BioCote® technology.
“We have produced this line since 2011,” says Claudia Salomoni, Specification Advisor & Marketing Coordinator SMU Powder Coatings Akzo Nobel, “and it is a proven fact that silver ions have a toxic effect on certain bacteria and molds. This type of coating is effective against decay, bad odors and stains, conserving the look of the finish intact.”
Silver ions are the active form of elementary silver; they bond to key proteins of micro-organisms, depriving them of the ability to breathe and to reproduce. “Our coatings are frequently used for the finishing of health care and collective facilities; they guarantee that even in hard-to-reach places for everyday cleaning, there will be no proliferation of bacteria,” Salomoni confirms. This type of coating has been engineered for the finishing of medical equipment, beds and furnishings, appliances, telephones and computers, ATM points, handles, faucets and showers, seats and handrails on public transport.
In the textile sector work has continued for several years on the creation of products with high bacteriostatic properties. “When we began to think about a fabric that would have high levels of sound absorbance,” says Giorgio Caimi, in charge of research and development at Caimi Brevetti, “we wanted to also obtain a bacteriostatic product, not based on surface treatments. We thought this quality had to be intrinsic to the molecular chain of the fiber, without being modified by external agents.” The result was achieved by using polyester yarns laden with silver ions. “With Fiber 1 we have managed to obtain a fabric that complies with international standards at the highest levels (flame resistance, absence of formaldehyde, absence of VOCs, completely recyclable, etc.),” Caimi continues. “And the yarn is bacteriostatic, with IMSL certified performance.” Using the patented Snowsound Fiber technology, the company has made many acoustic products for its catalogue, including dividers created by outstanding designers.
Another recommended material for hygiene in the spaces we inhabit is glass. It can be treated, as in the case of AGC Glass Europe, with its AntiBacterial line, also in a mirror finish, or it can be super-decorative, like the Vetrite sheets created by Sicis, in glass with a polymer core and antibacterial, antimicrobic characteristics.
The sector of ceramic finishes, before others, has worked on the bacteriostatic qualities of surfaces, using this plus as a significant factor of product communication. Among the forerunner brands, we should mention Iris Ceramica Group, with the Active Clean Air & Antibacterial Ceramic™ porcelain stoneware finishes, calling for application at high temperature of micrometric particles of titanium dioxide (TiO2), which exploit photocatalytic processes activated by sunlight or artificial light to grant materials advanced antibacterial and anti-pollution properties.
Panaria Group, with the Protect treatment applied to various lines of surfaces, uses Microban® technology: a layer of silver ions already contained in products in the firing phase eliminates up to 99.9% of bacteria, for a constantly protected surface.
Antibacterial Ceramics method of Casalgrande Padana®, the result of partnership with the Japanese company Toto, which has patented the technology that combines the antibacterial properties of noble metals with those of titanium dioxide.
By nature, ceramic is a non-toxic material. The brands that have not offered antibacterial solutions have instead worked on the absolute and proven hygienic properties of surfaces; the American NSF (National Sanitation Foundation - Food Equipment Materials) certification guarantees that the slabs by Florim do not release substances harmful to health in contact with foods. The innovative and StepWise™ production process of Marazzi makes it possible, for certain product lines, to obtain a combination of high resistance to slipping and exceptionally easy maintenance; these new surfaces can be sanitized completely using only water and delicate detergent.