As developers of anti-viral coatings step up a gear, industry bodies are pushing for speedier testing and approval regimes to bring counter Covid-19 products to market
Coatings specialists are gearing up to develop new anti-viral surface treatments needed to tackle Covid-19 in public spaces, but technical and regulatory hurdles could delay real-life applications.
Over 130 thought leaders from industry and academia, including representatives of major healthcare and transport organisations, attended a webinar this month, hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and trade body the British Coatings Federation.
Speaking at the event, Stuart Clarke, professor of surface science at Cambridge University and technical lead at the Surface Coatings Interest Group at the RSC, identified an ‘acute need to provide new information and insight about anti-viral surfaces and coatings in the current climate,’ particularly to confirm antiviral behaviour and rapidly ‘get appropriate products to market’.
The Surface Coatings Interest Group is trying to connect paint, coating and wall covering manufacturers and suppliers with specialist anti-viral testing facilities, including those at Cambridge, to develop solutions. ‘In the longer term, activities may centre on the informed reformulation of products and even the exploration of new anti-viral approaches,’ he said.
Anti-viral surfaces can be either passive or active. Passive coatings are widely available but not intrinsically anti-viral, they are easier to clean and are more resistant to jet-washing and scrubbing etc.
Active coatings contain agents that kill micro-organisms and could prevent Covid-19 transmission if applied to things like door handles, light switches, toilets, taps and sinks etc. However, no products are currently approved for anti-viral use in Europe, which implies the need for significant investment in research and development.
Coatings consultant Peter Collins told RIBAJ: ‘All biocidal products come under the stringent EU Biocidal Products Regulation, which requires manufacturers to demonstrate that the coating will not only kill the virus but protect any people it comes into contact with, which means significant testing and investment ... getting a new product into the marketplace could take up to two years.’
A more fast-tracked approach could see biocidal paints and coatings already approved to kill bacteria, yeast, fungi and algae tested to see if they are also effective against coronavirus.
‘Products marketed as active, with ingredients that kill bacteria, have a reasonable chance of being effective against Covid-19, particularly those based on silver ion technology [with strong oxidizing power],’ says Collins. ‘We will still need testing to prove that, which means connecting people with the relevant knowledge and expertise with testing facilities.’
According to Collins, the British Coatings Federation has been in ‘high level’ talks with the HSE about what can be done to speed up the regulatory process to get existing products tested and into the marketplace as fast as possible.
‘There's a huge amount of interest in this and not just for commercial reasons. People are concerned, they want to protect their families, so there's a desire and energy to do something about it,’ he concludes.