How antimicrobial switches can boost hygiene levels

The use of BioCote silver ion technology on Arcolectric switches can help prevent the build-up of microorganisms in sensitive environments, it has been claimed.

Very often, component parts - such as switches - are the first contact point for users when they interact with a product. This means that, inevitably, any microbes or microorganisms people happen to be carrying find themselves transferred onto the surface.

Since microbes are naturally occurring, and highly difficult to eliminate altogether from any environment, they can be a problem even in the cleanest of surroundings. Left unchecked, they begin to multiply very quickly on surfaces - sometimes to harmful levels. Indeed, just a single microbe has the ability to multiply to more than four million microbes within just eight hours.

When components are used in environments which must be hygienic as a necessity - such as hospitals, food preparation areas and schools - there is an obvious problem. These are often high-traffic environments, with many different individuals coming and going at various points of the day, Each and every one of them has the potential to be a microbe carrier. So with this in mind, what can be done to prevent the build-up and spread of microoganisms via component parts?

Industry is taking steps to meet the challenge head on. Technology innovation is aiming to guard against the build-up of microbes in sensitive environments, and also protect the electrical components themselves. Take, for instance, the work being done by antibacterial technology provider BioCote, in association with Elektron Technology's Arcolectric brand. Together, the firms have developed the world's first range of antimicrobial equipment switches.

Arcolectric's customers can now get their hands on standard and miniature rocker switches, push button switches, double pole splash resistant switches and splash/dust covers, each of which feature BioCote's innovative silver ion technology. This is designed to offer in-built antimicrobial protection for the lifespan of the product, reducing the volume of microbes - such as bacteria mould and fungi - by up to 99.9 per cent.

You may know that silver is a non-toxic metal, which has been used for centuries for its preservation qualities. But were you aware that it is also a natural antimicrobial? As such, the use of BioCote silver ion technology in the manufacturing process provides Arcolectric switches with a finish that helps prevent microbes growing on their surface, 24 hours a day.

Since silver is naturally occurring, environmentally-friendly and sustainable - and does not break down, wear off, wash off or leach out of products over time - it is an ideal alternative to synthetic, organic chemicals where electrical component parts are concerned.

Arcolectric claims to have undergone "rigorous" research, development and testing processes for the antimicrobial switches. It says all BioCote-protected products are regularly validated and quality control tested to ISO 22196 where applicable, in an independent laboratory. The firm explains that only products which demonstrate a reduction in bacteria of more than 95 per cent are allowed to use the BioCote brand as a guarantee of antimicrobial performance. This is designed to ensure the highest standards of hygiene are maintained.

"Arcolectric’s switches are already used for a wide variety of ‘high traffic’ consumer and industrial devices," said Stuart Hutchings, marketing manager at Arcolectric. He said the company's partnership with BioCote is helping to ensure switch surfaces are protected against the build-up and spread of viruses, mould and bacteria. And this is something Mr Hutchings believes businesses and organisations will be eager to take advantage of. "We anticipate a strong reaction from our customers to these significant enhancements to our best-selling ranges," he stated.

"More and more of our component parts are now being used for ‘high traffic’ applications where bacteria management becomes an issue," Mr Hutchings stated. "BioCote’s innovative technology helps us to overcome this issue, and offer our customers a new advance in switches."

Graham Harvey, from BioCote, suggested the partnership with Arcolectric has benefits for all parties - including electrical component users as well. Not only has the project allowed BioCote to pioneer a new application for its silver ion technology, but Arcolectric's switches have a unique selling point and end-users can better manage the cleanliness of their premises. "Coupled with good user hygiene practices, such as hand-washing and cleaning routines, Arcolectric’s unique antimicrobial components will deliver highly effective, safe, long-lasting product protection," Mr Harvey stated.

So while it may not be possible to eliminate microbes altogether from high-traffic environments, the use of innovative technology solutions has the potential to make a big difference. Preventing the build-up of microorganisms on common touch-points is one way of preventing germs from spreading, helping to manage potential health risks in sensitive locations.