Benzalkonium chloride is an important organic compound which is primarily used as an antibacterial agent and a surfactant. It is commonly found in household cleaning and sanitation products as it works by killing microbes and inhibiting their future growth. Benzalkonium chloride has gradually replaced triclosan as a safer antibacterial agent in hand sanitizers and cosmetic and commercial soaps. Triclosan can be dangerous and toxic to the human body when absorbed through the skin.

One of the most profitable verticals within the bulk and specialty chemicals domain, global benzalkonium chloride market size is projected to exceed a valuation of more than US$1.05 billion by 2025. The recent coronavirus outbreak has substantially propelled the product demand since it is used to manufacture hand sanitizers, soaps, and other personal or home hygiene products.

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AVA Chemicals, Dishman Group, Stepan Company, Merck Millipore, Novo Nordisk, Jinshan Taiko Palm-Oleo, Kao Chemicals, Iwaki Seiyaku, TNJ Chemicals, and Zhengzhou are a few benzalkonium chloride suppliers. 

Surging demand for sanitizers in wake of COVID-19

Since the discovery of the harmful health effects of triclosan, benzalkonium chloride has been increasingly used as an active ingredient in antiseptic creams, antibacterial hand wipes, hand sanitizers, and anti-itch ointments. In cosmetic formulations, it is preferred on account of its antimicrobial properties which prevent product from spoiling. The compound is used in personal care and hygiene products such as face and skin lotions, sunscreens, beauty and makeup products, food odor powder, and rash cream.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is significantly affecting communities and disrupting businesses. In order to curb the spread of the virus, regulatory organization including the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended regular cleaning of hands using a soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Consequently, the past few months have experienced a massive upsurge in the consumption of these products, resulting in a significant shortage of hand sanitizers in many regions.

The CDC had announced in May 2020 that the use of benzalkonium chloride in formulation of hand sanitization products is deemed eligible by the FDA. An FDA statement also states that benzalkonium chloride is as effective as an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, as it has been prominently used as an antiseptic for killing germs, preventing infections, and as a first-aid treatment.

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Following the announcements, BioArmor launched a new benzalkonium-based hand sanitizer. The company said that the sanitizer is more effective than alcohol-based products since formulations with more than 60% alcohol content can dry out hands and destroy not only harmful germs, but good ones too.

Killing the healthy germs could make palm surfaces more susceptible to infections and skin damage. Also, when alcohol-based sanitizers have evaporated from the skin, they leave hands highly susceptible to recontamination. These factors may promote the use of benzalkonium chloride in hand sanitizers in the near future.

Some major factors affecting benzalkonium chloride consumption

Accidental exposure to the substance may cause numerous side-effects including eye corrosion, skin irritation, and even dermatitis. Also, long-term use of benzalkonium chloride-based products can result in the growth or resistant bacteria in farms, hospitals, households, and food processing facilities. The risks of health problems or contamination associated with the use of benzalkonium chloride-based compounds may limit their adoption up to some extent.

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