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Experts Doubt Efficacy of Antiviral Technology in Diesel Denim

COVID-19 recovery is on the horizon but the pandemic's impact on sustainability, retail, product development and consumer buying patterns means the denim industry must evolve. Join Rivet on April 20th at 11 am ET for the COVID, One Year Later roundtable.

Antiviral denim has gotten the attention—and skepticism—of experts outside of the fashion industry.

Diesel’s latest antiviral denim has fallen under scrutiny by health experts quoted in a recent Business Insider article who claim it’s simply a “marketing ploy” and not effective in protecting individuals against the virus that causes COVID-19.

While the article specifically calls out Polygiene’s ViralOff technology used in select Diesel denim, the experts denounced antiviral finishing technology in general, noting that the airborne nature of the coronavirus makes it less likely to spread through surfaces such as denim.

“The short of it is, I don’t know why you would want an anti-microbial-coated pair of jeans, especially for a virus that is primarily spreading by aerosol,” Rachel Graham, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, told Business Insider. “At the end of the day, you’ve just got a pair of overpriced jeans that is giving consumers a false sense of security.”

However, the technology doesn’t promise to protect against the coronavirus. Instead, it claims to prevent 99 percent of viruses—including those that cause COVID-19—from attaching to fabric, therefore protecting the treated product rather than the individual.

Other protective technologies are increasing in popularity throughout the denim industry. Turkish denim mill Calik Denim is developing new fiber innovations with antiviral properties. It will run lab trials and test processes, with results expected in the coming months. Fabric developer PG Denim and chemical specialist Rudolf, has been working on finishing technologies that offer antibacterial protections as well. Prior to using ViralOff technology, Diesel also featured Nearchimica’s protector shield technology in a capsule collection.

But the issue isn’t just with surface versus airborne germs. Caitlin Howell, an assistant professor at the University of Maine’s Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, told Business Insider that it also has to do with ViralOff’s claim that it protects against such a large majority of viruses.

“As a scientist, I’m very conservative,” she told the source. “There’s no way that this company could know that this treatment is 99 percent effective across every kind of virus in every situation.”

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