Plastics find applications across a host of industries including medicines, construction, appliances, automotives, and in other industries. However, repeated use of plastics over a substantial period is raising a concern over their hygiene. Storing food in plastic containers promotes the growth of harmful bacteria. Contamination problems are increasing with escalating cases of pathogenic diseases. Use of antimicrobials in plastics can help kill or control the growth of harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and other parasites. Consumer awareness regarding the importance of antimicrobials in plastics is growing owing to the widespread epidemic outbreaks of life threatening diseases such as H1N1 in 2009 and increasing cases of nosocomial infections in recent times. There is an evident increase in the demand for antimicrobials in the medical and healthcare sector. This is one of the primary reasons for driving the global antimicrobial market's growth. Moreover, the antimicrobial plastic market is witnessing rapid growth in the developing regions of Asia Pacific as there is an increase in the use of plastics here. Many large scale plastic manufacturers are using antimicrobial additives in their products such as medical equipments, bottles and food packaging. Economic slowdown is one of the main factors affecting the antimicrobial plastics market. It affects the consumption of antimicrobials in plastics as manufacturers have to produce cost-effective products. Moreover, in developing regions of Asia Pacific and Latin America, there are no stringent regulations on the use of antimicrobials in plastics. This has resulted in malpractices among some of the manufacturers to make false claims of the antimicrobial plastics used in their products. This has in turn affected the antimicrobial plastics market negatively, as per ResearchMoz.Anti microbial plastics are finding increasing usage in a growing spectrum of industries. An intricate and dynamic evolution has emerged due to new trends: more stringent requirements, higher demand, government regulations, wider range of products used every day, new environmental trends, new additives, specific solutions. The various industrial sectors have very different requirements as varied as safety, lifetime increase, aesthetics, unpleasant odor suppression and sometimes simply marketing arguments.
Antimicrobial solutions include, for example, inorganic derivatives of Silver, Copper, Zinc and organic products such as BIT (Benzisothiazoline-one), DCOIT (Dichloro-octyl-4-isothiazolin-one), OIT (Octyl-isothiazolin-one), OBPA (oxybisphenoxarsine), IPBC (iodopropynyl butylcarbamate), TBT (tributyltin), TBZ (Thiazolyl benzimidazole), Triclosan, Zinc pyrithione. Nanomaterials are also used and studied. As for other new and growing technologies, there are many controversies concerning the antimicrobial spreading in the environment, the possible harmful effect of certain entities notably for long-term use, the possible bacterial resistance and/or hormonal disruption, the efficiency of some products in preventing illness and curtailing infection.
Devices are as heterogeneous as medical devices, packaging products, sports and recreation equipment, food processing machinery, business machines, consumer appliances, general household goods, transportation interiors, construction supplies, outdoor applications and compounds that use organic fillers. Healthcare/Medical sector emerges as first consumer of antimicrobial, far ahead of packaging according to a May 2014 online survey by SpecialChem
In addition to technical and economic requirements, the growth of antimicrobial plastics depends on specific legislative pressures. In the United States, usage and benefit claims are regulated by the EPA or guided by the FDA depending on usage. In Europe, The Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR, Regulation (EU) 528/2012) concerns the placing on the market and use of biocidal products. All biocidal products require an authorization before they can be placed on the market, and the active substances contained in that biocidal product must be previously approved. All antimicrobial agents have different activities and varying influences on microorganisms, so every type of antimicrobial solution must be studied separately depending on the microorganism(s) to be fought.
Packaging: Antimicrobial packaging is one of the new active packaging concepts presenting a challenging technology with impact on shelf-life extension combined with food quality, safety and longer appealing look. The uses of packaging films containing antimicrobial agents are efficient due to the slow migration from the packaging film to the surface of food. According to Smithers Pira, antimicrobials account for about 10% in the additives for packaging.
Consumer Goods: In recent years, consumers have been increasingly concerned about the presence of bacteria in or on various items. Consequently, manufacturers put on the market antimicrobial consumer goods including, for example, cutting boards, kitchen sponges, toothbrushes, toys, etc. EPA advises consumers not to rely on antibacterial claims as a substitute for following common-sense hygienic practices. To date, there are only a limited number of such products that are actually registered with the EPA or other regulation authorities and, therefore, proven to perform as promised. Banknotes are another major problem carrying dangerous bacteria from one person to another, and a recent report by the Queen Mary University showed that 14% of paper bank notes and 10% of bank cards were contaminated with fecal organisms. For plastic banknotes and cards, antibacterial formulations are now proposed, for example by Symphony Environmental Technologies.
Sports & Leisure: Antimicrobial solutions limit the growth of bacteria and therefore reduce the perspiration odors created by bacteria. This is of great importance to sports, exercise and leisure accessories. Antimicrobial solutions are used for a range of applications including sportswear, footwear products, athletic apparatus, outdoor devices, water sports.
Electronics: Studies have confirmed that hand-held electronic devices carry relatively high levels of bacteria leading to increased risk of transmission of harmful bacteria, viruses, influenza etc. Long lasting antimicrobial solutions are now available, for instance on cell phone covers effectively preventing bacterial growth. Antimicrobial solutions are used for a range of standard and miniature rocker switches, push button switches, double pole switches, splash/dust covers, keyboards, covers etc.
Other application sectors: Typical applications for Antimicrobial solutions include a multitude of devices relating to general household goods, houseware products, food processing machinery, business machines, consumer appliances, films & fibers, transportation interiors, construction supplies, outdoor devices, sprinkler heads, hair care products, plumbing/water fixtures, flooring, and more generally compounds that use organic fillers. Of course, new developed products follow new health and safety concerns, broader spectral efficiency, longer lifetime, aesthetics and other sensory requirements, environmental trends, easier processing demands.
|(Source Courtesy: Michel Biron, SpecialChem)|