Products Finishing: November 2006
Global growth in the use of inorganic silver as an antibacterial agent in the plastics market is robust and shows no signs of slowing down, particularly in the U.S., Western Europe, and China, according to the latest market studies by Kline & Company.
"Silver is entrenched in the Japanese market, which places a high importance on antimicrobial protection," says Gillian Morris, industry manager of the Chemicals and Materials practice for Kline & Company's research division. "In Japan, silver ions are supported in an inorganic matrix/substrate such as zeolites or alumina-silica-based biocides that are often used not so much to protect the integrity of the material, but more to protect consumers, particularly in hospital settings where containing disease transmission vectors is a big concern."
According to Kline, the overall markets for specialty biocides in both the U.S. and Europe are very mature, with silver emerging as one of the few bright spots. Annual consumption of silver-based biocides is expected to grow by more than 20% in Europe, 25% in the U.S., and nearly 15% in China, albeit from a small base in each case. However, cultural factors and market nuances present significant challenges as well as opportunities to suppliers of these materials.
"The Japanese are quite sophisticated in terms of the technology and demand for protection and the method in which it is delivered to the final article," says Morris. "On the other hand, in Europe, there is growing concern about overexposure to antimicrobial substances. The fear is that sanitizing everything may reduce people's natural immunity to common germs and help antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria to develop."