University makes their own hand sanitizer
Gabriela Cuapio – Contributor
Generic spray bottles have been positioned at the front of many classrooms, filled with disinfectant made by Facilities Department staff.
Director of Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator, Lisa Kortfelt, said she mixes about 42 gallons of sanitizer a day to keep Southern stocked with enough to keep high touch areas clean now that students have returned to campus.
“Many disinfectants we’ve used usually go about being green,” Kortfelt said. “But green means it’s not harmful to the environment it doesn’t mean that is not as harmful to people.”
With increased sanitation and disinfecting procedures on campus, Kortfelt said she needed something that would be free of preservatives but still effective at the same time.
Kortfelt and Associate Vice President for Capital Budgeting and Facilities Operations, Eric Lessne began looking into a chemical called Hypochlorous Acid (HOCI).
Eric Lessne said he first heard about the chemical during a conversation with a product seller. “The gentlemen said, ‘Hey, I just sold this solution to the town of Glastonbury for their schools, would you be interested?”
According to Lessne, the university is currently the only institution in the CSU system that is making their own sanitizer at a cost-effective price.
“We are spending a little less than five cents per gallon,” said Lessne.
According to a review article published on June 25th by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, an ideal disinfectant and sanitizer must be nontoxic to surface contact, noncorrosive, effective in various forms and relatively inexpensive. HOC1 may be the disinfectant of choice for coronaviruses.
Kortfelt said she is currently the only staff member in charge of the mixture that consists of acetic acid water and sodium chloride. She mixes it all first in big batches that she later distributes into separate bottles and gallons.
“I take pH readings and free chlorine readings of the original and diluted batches. I do this for every single batch,” she said.
Kortfelt said the process is labor intensive. However, she did not want to purchase the mixture elsewhere because she did not want to run the risk of extra preservatives being added.
“Our custodial services are spraying it while areas are not occupied, but the person spraying it still has an exposure, I need this product to avoid harm” she said.
The HOC1 solution is being used all over main areas where people most meet, not only by custodians but also by staff members and students. The solution is not only sprayed on mainly touched areas, but also placed in all hand sanitizer dispensers around campus.
Student worker, Jurea McIntosh, a junior, works at Buley Library handling books and said she uses the solution during her shifts.
“I’m glad somebody actually took the time to research what they were using and made a better decision,” McIntosh said. “During this time, we are all finding methods to stay safe, but you still have to be mindful of the stuff we are using to avoid harm.”