The demand for fibers, textiles and apparel with antimicrobial properties is expected to grow as consumers become increasingly aware of both the importance of personal hygiene and the health risks posed by certain microorganisms.
In a recent issue of Performance Apparel Markets published by Textiles Intelligence, a report titled, “Antimicrobial fibres, fabrics and apparel: innovative weapons against infection,” noted that the global market for antimicrobial agents is expected to increase by 12 percent each year between 2013 and 2018.
As consumers continuously opt for healthier and more physically active lifestyles, they are seeking sportswear and athletic apparel with antimicrobial properties. In addition, the greater use of fabrics like cotton that are prone to harboring bacterial colonies will mean more opportunities for antimicrobial textiles.
But one issue of concern among consumers is that some of the agents used in creating antimicrobial properties–most notably silver nanoparticles and triclosan–are toxic. These agents can be separated from textiles during laundering and potentially pollute water sources or come in contact with the skin and cause irritation.
So, to combat these concerns, manufacturers are working to develop effective antimicrobial technologies that are less likely to be hazardous to consumers’ health and the environment.
In turn, the now-developing market for natural antimicrobial technologies is expected to expand to accommodate. A number of manufacturers have already begun developing environmentally sustainable antimicrobial products.
Dow Chemical Company has produced a silver-based bacteria-inhibiting technology called Silvadur, an antimicrobial fabric finish that doesn’t release any silver particles into the environment, and is said to help reduce the amount of energy and water used by textile processing plants.
Swiss-based Sanitized has developed a range of Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified antimicrobial textiles and home furnishings with technical protective finishes that are free from harmful substances.
Infection prevention company, Quick-Med Technologies, Inc. developed Stay Fresh, its newest antimicrobial platform based on hydrogen peroxide–a well known consumer antimicrobial product commonly used in households for disinfecting cuts and scrapes, for example. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are backing the technology for use in textiles, decorative fabrics and functional fabrics used in filters and carpets. In February, Quick-Med licensed its Stay Fresh technology to Medline Industries, Inc. for use in traditional wound care products for both retail and institutional sale in North America.