Setting the Record Straight on Gaiters

Chris Bernat is willing to stick his neck out for gaiters.

The chief revenue officer of Vapor Apparel (asi/93396) was unhappy with the way the national media was portraying a Duke University study that measured mask efficiency. Researchers used a laser, box and smart phone to measure how many respiratory droplets were able to pass through more than a dozen different types of face coverings. Included in the mix was a neck gaiter that scientists had lying around. The gaiter proved the least effective of the bunch.

Duke researchers were up front in noting that their study was never meant to be a comprehensive test of all face coverings, but rather a demonstration of how easy and inexpensive it would be for manufacturers to set up their own test for respiratory droplets. Still, the tidbit about neck gaiters was what made headlines, spreading quickly across the country. That had an immediate effect on suppliers in the promotional products industry.

Bernat contacted the authors of the study, a reporter at The Washington Post and others who wrote about the viral mask study to explain that not all gaiters are the same. Just as with a mask, Bernat emphasized, much of the effectiveness of a gaiter depends on its construction: How heavy is it? How tight is the weave of the fabric? Is it long enough to be doubled up? Is a person wearing the correct size?

Republished from PROMO INSIDERS 8/20/2020, Interview by  Theresa Hegel, executive editor of digital content at ASI.  Please on the link to listen to the 30 minute podcast.

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FDA Issues New Warning About Hand Sanitizers

The agency expanded its list of dangerous or ineffective sanitizers to avoid and raised a new alarm about a toxic chemical to look out for in certain sanitizers.  

As reported poisonings from deficient hand sanitizer rise, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expanded its list of alleged toxic sanitizers to avoid, raised a new alarm about a chemical to look out for, and warned that some products on the market lack the required germ/virus-killing potency to be effective.

The news is relevant for the promotional products industry. Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, “hand sanitizer” has been the single most searched term through the first seven months of 2020 in ESP, the Advertising Specialty Institute’s database of products from around the promo industry.

The FDA’s list of sanitizers (go here to see the full list) to avoid has now grown to 163 entries. The list includes recent additions like Leafree Instant Sanitizer, which was labeled “edible alcohol.” Distributed by Corgiomed Inc., the sanitizer was made in China by Yangzhou Olande Cosmetic Co. Ltd. Ingesting sanitizer can lead to everything from blindness to death.

Many of the problematic sanitizers on the list were produced at facilities in Mexico. But recently, the FDA also called out sanitizers manufactured in the U.S., including products produced in North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Utah. On Saturday, SG24 of Bolingbroke, GA, recalled SkinGuard24 – All Day Hand Sanitizer products because they are labeled as containing methanol.

U.S.-made sanitizer that the FDA identified as problematic included: UltraCruz Hand Sanitizing Gel Antimicrobial from Santa Cruz Biotechnology of Texas; Volu-Sol Handrub Sanitizing Solution from Volu-Sol, Inc. in Utah; Always Be Clean Hand Sanitizer and Just Hand Sanitizer Single Use Packs by Open Book Extracts in North Carolina; and Lite ’n Foamy Lemon Blossom Hand Sanitizer and foamyiQ Lemon Blossom Hand Sanitizer from Spartan Chemical Co. Inc. in Ohio.

The FDA is also now cautioning consumers to avoid sanitizers that are labeled to contain ethanol or isopropyl alcohol/isopropanol (which are safe at the correct levels), but have tested positive for 1-propanol, which can be toxic and life-threatening. For example, sanitizer from Harmonic Nature S de RL de MI in Mexico contains 1-propanol, the FDA says.

“Young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute are most at risk,” according to the FDA. “Ingesting 1-propanol can cause central nervous system depression, which can result in death. Symptoms of 1-propanol exposure can include confusion, decreased consciousness, and slowed pulse and breathing. Animal studies indicate that the central nervous system depressant effects of 1-propanol are 2 to 4 times as potent as alcohol (ethanol).”

Through the third week of July, a CBS report detailed, there had been a 59% spike in calls — more than 18,000 cases — to one of the 55 poison control centers around the U.S. due to various incidents involving hand sanitizer, compared to the same period last year. Almost 12,000 of those cases involved children ages 5 and younger.

Meanwhile, the FDA warned consumers about sanitizers that don’t have a sufficient amount of at least one of two kinds alcohol required to make the product effective. Sanitizer must contain at minimum 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol (different than 1-propanol) to work and be safe for human use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The FDA identified the below sanitizers as “sub-potent”:

• Alcohol Antiseptic 62% Hand Sanitizer (Quimica Magna de Mexico)
• Bernal (Quimica Magna)
• Datsen (Quimica Magna)
• Derma70 Hand Sanitizer (Asiaticon)
• Clean Humans (DEPQ Internacional)
• CleanCare NoGerm (Precision Analitica Integral)
• Dgreen (DEPQ Internaciona)
• Hand Sanitizer (DEPQ Internacional)
• HF&N (Healthy Food and Nutrition Lab)
• Medically Minded (Asiaticon)
• NeoNatural (Limpo Quimicos)
• OZO (Estrategia Hospitalaria)
• Protz Real Protection Antibacterial (Asiaticon)
• UltraCruz (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Texas)
• V-KLEAN (Asiaticon)
• Yakana (Grupo Yakana)

Earlier this summer, the FDA told consumers to avoid sanitizer that contains methanol, which can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. Products may not be labeled as containing methanol, but might still have it. Check the FDA list of suspect sanitizers before making a purchase.

“Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning,” the FDA said in a statement. “Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk, young children who accidently ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute, are most at risk for methanol poisoning.”

Republished from PROMOGRAM 

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Companies Focus on Mask Innovation

Happening at retail and in promo, some manufacturers are aiming to produce masks with enhanced performance features, breathability and comfort, especially as summer takes hold. Still, innovation comes with risks.
Come July, Japanese sports equipment manufacturer Yonex plans to start selling face masks that contain xylitol.

Yonex typically uses the material, which absorbs heat and wicks sweat, in the apparel it produces for the Japanese national badminton team and professional tennis players.

Since Yonex pivoted to selling face masks during the coronavirus pandemic, the company with a 74-year history felt the material could be used to create quick-drying, antimicrobial masks that enable wearers to stay cooler and more comfortable on hot days.

“As people spend more time wearing masks against the coronavirus, we hope our technology will enable users to keep cool during hot weather, even if only a little bit,” a Yonex spokeswoman said, according to The Japan Times.

While the Yonex masks are particularly available in Japan, they highlight what some feel will be a growing trend at retail and in the promotional products marketplace as mask-wearing remains increasingly common amid the continuing COVID-19 threat – namely, that manufacturers are going to innovate, trying to build more performance-enhancing features into face coverings.

“We believe that more innovation is coming in face masks for people to wear while performing work, playing sports and engaging in other activities in warm environments,” said Jeremy Lott, president of Top 40 promotional products supplier SanMar (asi/84863).

Issaquah, WA-based SanMar is already making progress in that regard, Lott said. He noted that the company’s Port Authority Stretch Performance Gaiter (G100) comes in a performance fabric. Most of the masks SanMar makes are cotton, but they’re outfitted with Sciessent’s Agion, an antimicrobial treatment that only activates when it needs to defend against microbes, Lott said.

Meanwhile, Allmade (asi/34341) has already developed a mask innovation. The apparel supplier has created the Allmask Tri-Blend Face Mask. Lightweight and breathable for the summer months and beyond, the mask is a unique blend of 50% Repreve polyester made from recycled plastic; 25% organic cotton, which is U.S.-grown without chemicals; and 25% TENCEL Modal. Each mask consists of an average of one recycled water bottle.

“This tri-blend is a great performance fabric,” Moor said. “The differentiating ingredient we use – Modal – really helps with moisture-wicking and odor.”

In part to demonstrate the mask’s comfort and performance capabilities, Moor recently wore one as part of a Memorial Day-related fitness challenge, which he documented on Instagram.

When it comes to mask innovation, manufacturers need to proceed smartly and ensure they’re complying with standards established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some promo suppliers say. “It’s a risky area,” Chris Blakeslee, president of California-based Bella+Canvas (asi/39590), said of experimenting with fabrics and treatments on masks.

Bella+Canvas is producing about 100 million masks per week now. Most are a cotton/polyester blend that Blakeslee says naturally keeps them cooler and more breathable. The company doesn’t plan to expand beyond that to different treatments and the like, Blakeslee said.

“Many of these treatments, like moisture-wicking chemicals, agents, water repellants and various bio antimicrobials have never been tested for inhalation safety,” said Blakeslee, adding that brands are doing a poor job of adhering to FDA standards regarding masks, such as that all body-contacting materials must be disclosed on the label. “Eventually,” said Blakeslee, “one of them is going to get nailed.”

Back at retail, some companies are definitely pressing forward with mask material and treatment innovations. Mizuno Corp., for instance, is making masks that feature a soft-stretch tricot material that normally would be used in the sportswear/athletic equipment maker’s swimsuits and track and field apparel. Another Japanese firm, knitwear maker Knit Waizu, is producing masks with icepacks, The Japan Times reported.

Such examples indicate that more new developments on mask fabrics and performance could be in the cards. Companies in promo, sporting goods, fashion and other industries have turned to selling personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic in order to meet rampant demand and help fulfill a public safety need.


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Fisher Space Pen on First Manned SpaceX Flight

Astronauts are writing at zero gravity with the promotional products supplier’s iconic product.

A promotional product supplier’s iconic product is an essential part of a new chapter of American space exploration, just as it has been an essential part of its past.

Fisher Space Pen Co.’s (asi/54423) AG7 Original Astronaut Space Pen is the writing instrument NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have used aboard their history-making SpaceX flight.

SpaceX, billionaire Elon Musk’s private space company, launched Behnken and Hurley to the stars on May 30, marking the enterprise’s first-ever crewed mission.

The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are the first private sector-designed and built craft to carry astronauts into space. The mission is also a return to space for NASA astronauts; the agency hasn’t launched its own astronauts into orbit since the end of the space shuttle program nearly a decade ago.

On their flight to the International Space Station, Behnken and Hurley used the AG7 Original Astronaut Space Pen to do their writing. They’ll continue to use the pens at the space station, where about 50 Fisher Space Pens are in use.

The Fisher AG7 Original Astronaut Space Pen has been flying aboard every crewed space mission since Apollo 7 in 1968.

“We are delighted that Fisher Space Pens are once again flying aboard American rockets from American soil,” says Matt Fisher, vice president of Fisher Space Pen Co. “Fisher Space Pen was created especially for use in zero-gravity, and our company continues to innovate new functionalities for future releases. Congratulations to NASA, SpaceX, astronauts Behnken and Hurley and everyone involved in this historic mission.”

Paul C. Fisher, an inventor and entrepreneur, created the Fisher Space Pen. He spent more than $1 million of his own money to develop an ink refill that uses pressurized gas to force ink to flow in zero gravity.

The Fisher Space Pen brand has become an iconic symbol of American technology and design, as Counselor documented in an in-depth piece about the pen and the company. It has also become part of American pop culture. Fisher Space Pens are enjoyed and used by millions worldwide, and the pen has become the subject of hundreds of fan videos. It has been featured on several TV programs, including an episode of the hit series Seinfeld titled “The Pen.”

All Fisher Space Pen products, which are Made in America, contain the patented pressurized ink refill, which allows them to write upside down, under water, in extreme temperatures from -30 to +250 degrees F (-35 to +121 Celsius), over almost any surface and three times longer than the average pen.

While astronauts are among its end-clients, Fisher Space Pen Co. sells its pens through promo products distributors for everyday use in a functional and promotional way, as the pens can easily be imprinted through traditional decoration means.

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COVID-19 Crisis Disrupts Bag Market

Reusable bags are under fire due to concerns over spreading the coronavirus.

After years of increasing legislation banning single-use plastic bags, the “green wave” has crashed due to the COVID-19 crisis, creating a ripple effect throughout the promotional products industry.

States, cities and stores have changed their tune over the past few months, encouraging plastic bags rather than reusable bags because of fears over spreading the coronavirus. Even California, the pacesetter of the anti-plastic movement, has suspended its 4-year-old ban after certain studies have suggested that reusable bags, when not cleaned properly, can become veritable petri dishes for bacteria and the like. In order to better protect their workers and customers, retail, grocery and plastic industry advocates have rallied for plastics to be reinstated at least for the time being.

It’s been a reversal of fortune for promo firms who’ve benefitted from selling branded totes and other reusable bags in recent years. “Our sales have dropped since the pandemic due to the shutdown, and we’ve been hit extra hard because of stores removing reusable bags,” says Andy Keller, founder and CEO of California-based ChicoBag Company (asi/44811). “Raley’s Supermarkets, for example, will not sell new reusable bags as part of this, which has no basis in science or logic.”

Keller points to environmentalists and other ban advocates who’ve called studies linking reusable bags to increased disease spread dubious. They note that reusable bags are not necessarily any more or less contaminated than other surfaces at stores. Keller also argues that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have all given guidance supporting the notion that reusable bags don’t pose a health threat. Although those organizations don’t specify whether the coronavirus is spread through reusable bags, the CDC does state “it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.”

Despite trepidation from some clients, Top 40 supplier Bag Makers (asi/37940) is still seeing a demand for reusable nonwoven polypropylene bag styles. “While bag sales have slowed in general due to the economic impact of coronavirus, our customers continue to show interest in reusable bags for promotions and program business,” says Jennifer McFadden, communications director at Bag Makers.

The most popular bags during the pandemic, according to suppliers, have been paper, plastic and insulated bags that support restaurant takeout and delivery orders, as well as home grocery delivery.

“The nonwoven cooler sales spiked exponentially,” says Gary Semrow, owner and vice president of marketing at Illinois-based American Ad Bag (asi/35290). “We also had a large spike in demand for the wider gusseted paper shopping bags for the restaurants to do take-out, causing a tight supply chain. Now that most of the country is opening up, the stress on the supply of wide gusset paper shoppers has lessened.”

Deliveries of all kinds have experienced a surge during the pandemic, as consumers have turned to e-commerce for their goods. “Our poly mailer business is very strong now, as well as any other kind of packaging sold to online marketers,” says Ken Trottere, vice president of New York-based Poly-Pak Industries, Inc. (asi/81350).

Although the pandemic has prevented revenue from reusable bags, ChicoBag has seen a rise in other product categories. “We’ve seen a spike in sales for our bottle sling and travel pack because people are spending a lot more time walking, hiking and getting outdoors,” Keller says.

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