UVic researchers make 200 litres of hand sanitizer to donate to Island Health. Heather Buckley (centre), Jeremy Wulff (left to right), Katherine Elvira, Scott McIndoe and David Berry are pictured on April 8, 2020. (File contributed/Neil Burford)

University of Victoria produces 200 litres of hand sanitizer for Island Health

A team of six used a UVic chemistry lab to help out frontline workers

A team from UVic has produced 200 litres of hand sanitizer and given it to Island Health to help protect frontline workers against COVID-19.

“I noticed that a lot of places like distilleries and breweries were starting to switch over their production capacity to help increase hand sanitizer to meet the shortages that people were facing,” said David Leitch, project lead and assistant professor in chemistry at the University of Victoria. “So our department did a bit of digging to find out what it would take to make it.”

ALSO READ: Victoria brewery uses 3D-printer to make face shields for health care workers

The World Health Organization had put out a recipe for a high-quality sanitizer often used in the field using ingredients like high-grade ethanol. Leitch and his team realized they had more than enough of the ingredients in stock to produce the sanitizer, and reached out to Health Canada to ensure they understood all protocols required. Within 48 hours of contact, UVic received an expedited licence to begin manufacturing the sanitizer in one of its undergrad chemistry labs.

Along with ethanol, the sanitizer also includes water, hydrogen peroxide and glycerin to help make the solution topically-friendly for hands.

ALSO READ: Victoria distiller partners with body care store to make free hand sanitizer

Within a week of contacting Health Canada, 200 litres of sanitizer were delivered to the loading dock at Island Health – an amount that is equivalent to about 65,000 individual doses.

Leitch says that the university presently still has enough material in stock to make another 400 litres before they will need to order more supplies. He suspects they will begin work on the next batch very shortly.

In addition to UVic, local breweries are also producing sanitizer, including Phillips Brewing which dropped off its first batch of sanitizer at the Royal Jubilee Hospital on Wednesday morning.

“Island Health is grateful for the generosity of everyone who has made donations, including the recent donations of hand sanitizer, and reached out to help care professionals during this unprecedented time,” said Island Health in an emailed statement. “The support from the community is truly humbling.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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