EBMUD Producing Hand Sanitizer In-House for Worker Safety

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Finished hand sanitizer ready for distribution to EBMUD staff.

Facing an extreme shortage of hand sanitizer in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) produced its own. This was especially important for water and wastewater workers who often do not have access to soap and running water in the field. EBMUD was able to do this because the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relaxed its restrictions and issued a temporary policy for preparation of certain alcohol-based hand sanitizer products during the public health emergency, declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services on January 31, 2020.

The FDA requires that the compounding laboratory follow the World Health Organization (WHO) recipe and adhere to the U. S. Pharmacopeia (USP) 795 non-sterile compounding guidelines.

EBMUD has now produced sanitizer products using the two formulas provided by the WHO for 10-Liter (L) preparation:

  1. Isopropyl alcohol-based hand sanitizer, 75% v/v

  • Isopropyl alcohol 99.8%: 7515 mL
  • Hydrogen peroxide 3%: 417 mL
  • Glycerol 98%: 145 mL
  • Complete to 10 L with sterile water
  1. Ethanol-based hand sanitizer, 80% v/v

  • Denatured Ethanol 96%: 8333 mL
  • Hydrogen peroxide 3%: 417 mL
  • Glycerol 98%: 145 mL
  • Complete to 10 L with sterile water

EBMUD Laboratory employee Melissa Lash prepares a batch of hand sanitizer in a fume hood.

Following FDA and USP 795 guidelines, the ingredients should be pharmaceutical or food-grade and final alcohol content is verified using an alcohol meter. Sanitizer is dispensed into bottles for distribution, and then stored for three days prior to use to ensure any resistant spores present in the non-sterile bottles are destroyed. Adhering to these guidelines ensures the efficacy of the sanitizer and the safety of employees who will be using the finished product.

Procuring the needed ingredients was a challenge, as both pharmaceutical and food-grade isopropyl alcohol and ethanol were in short supply across the United States shortly after the FDA relaxed its policy regarding hand sanitizer production. Working directly with vendors and local distilleries, EBMUD employees across multiple departments were able to secure the raw ingredients to produce more than 570 L (150 gallons) of sanitizer.

Concurrently, EBMUD Laboratory staff studied requirements and wrote a standard operating procedure adhering to WHO, USP, and FDA guidelines. An employee with a talent for design produced labels that met FDA and USP labeling requirements, and EBMUD’s in-house print shop printed the labels with inks that will not run when exposed to alcohol.

As of Sunday, May 17, 2020, the EBMUD Laboratory has produced over 350 L (92 gallons) of sanitizer for use by EBMUD employees. The sanitizer is distributed in individual bottles, and in larger gallon jugs with pump tops to refill the bottles when empty. The Laboratory is able to produce and bottle a minimum of 72 L (19 gallons) per week, which keeps the hundreds of EBMUD field workers safe and allows EBMUD to continue its essential work of providing safe drinking water and treating wastewater.

“I am so proud of the Laboratory team members working together to produce hand sanitizer for EBMUD employees so they can work safely to protect public health and the environment during this global health crisis.” said Eileen White, Wastewater Department Director.

For more information on how to make hand sanitizer, email Melissa Lash at [email protected].