Forestry lab shifts focus to making sanitizer during COVID-19 pandemic

A federal forestry lab in the community for over 75 years, GLFC saw a need and opportunity to help out during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Faced with the current situation involving the spread of COVID-19 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., staff from the Natural Resources Canada’s Great Lakes Forestry Centre have decided to take part in the efforts against COVID-19. They have successfully produced a batch of hand sanitizer for the local health authorities including Sault Area Hospital (SAH) and the Group Health Centre (GHC) to aid in the shortage of resources essential to fight the spread of the virus.

On March 21, employees of the GLFC’s Insect Production and Quarantine Laboratories (IPQL) got to work. With the assistance of regional Health and Safety Officer Kerry MacDonald, the team included John Dedes, Insect Production Services Manager, as well as laboratory technicians Tim Ladd, Sarah Crispell and Kenny Boissoneau, successfully made 160 litres of hand sanitizer with supplies and equipment on hand, 100 of which have been delivered to GHC. 

To date, we have been able to make 350 liters, and have been able to provide the product at no charge to Sault Area Hospital and the Group Health Centre. These sites are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19. We have also been able to supply hand sanitizer to the local hospice (ARCH), the Women in Crisis Centre, and to local food banks and homeless shelters. These places operate on donations, and do not have the budget to restock under the current crisis. Like the hospitals, these agencies are struggling to find ways to replenish their supply. We have been working with the local Algoma Public Health unit to identify where the greatest needs and risks are in the community.

Guided by the formula provided by the World Health Organization, along with supplies already in stock at the research facility, the team worked in the quarantine laboratory. An already highly sterile environment, the design of the IPQL is to control various pathogens, including for viruses and bacteria. With their experience in working in a quarantine lab, the team is already well trained in sterile procedures and are taking appropriate steps to protect themselves from any risks.