Demand for antimicrobial fibers, textiles and apparel is set for strong growth, according to Issue No 47 of Performance Apparel Markets from the business information company Textiles Intelligence. It will be spurred primarily by growing awareness among consumers of the importance of personal hygiene and the health risks posed by certain microorganisms.
The promotion of healthier and more physically active lifestyles will buoy demand as consumers look to purchase sportswear and fitness apparel with antimicrobial properties. The greater use of fabrics, particularly cotton, which are prone to harboring large bacterial colonies, will present additional opportunities for manufacturers.
Between 2013 and 2018, the global market for antimicrobial agents for all end uses, including textiles, is forecast to grow by nearly 12 percent each year. There is concern among consumers, however, that some agents used to provide textiles and apparel with antimicrobial properties–notably silver nanoparticles and triclosan–are toxic. These agents can become dislodged from a textile during laundering and pollute water sources. They can also come into contact with the skin and cause skin irritation.
In response to these concerns, manufacturers are stepping up their efforts to develop effective and durable antimicrobial technologies that are less likely to be harmful to human health and the environment, and that comply with environmental certifications.
As a result, antimicrobial products that are likely to record the strongest gains in sales over the coming years will be those that offer the highest efficacy and durability while posing little or no threat to the safety of consumers or the environment. Consequently, the market for natural antimicrobial compounds–although still in its infancy–is likely to expand, given the growing interest in environmentally friendly products among consumers and a tightening of the regulations that govern the use of many common biocides.
Environmentally sustainable antimicrobial technologies have been developed by a number of manufacturers. Dow Chemical Co. has produced a silver-based antimicrobial technology called Silvadur, which does not release silver particles into the environment. Silvadur is also reported to help reduce the amounts of energy and water used by textile processing plants.
In a similar vein, Sanitized has developed a range of antimicrobial products (called Sanitized) that comply with Oeko-Tex Standard 100, which certifies that they are free from harmful substances. Quick-Med Technologies has developed a technology called Stay Fresh, and claims that this is the only hydrogen peroxide-based antimicrobial technology approved by the U.S/ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).