Ecospun fiber is health-friendly
By Shir Haberman
Seacoast Sunday, November 4, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of Seacoast Sunday and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON — Foss Manufacturing Co. LLC has created two processes that can not only help protect the environment, but protect the health of the population of this planet as well.
The company's new slogan could easily be "Green and Clean," according to President Mike DeGrace.
"It's something the guys in our carpet department came up with," he said.
The "green" part comes from the fact that the company produces all its non-woven and specialty fabrics from recycled plastic bottles. Those fabrics can be used in any textile product, including clothing, blankets, carpets, wall coverings, vehicle interiors and home furnishings, and can be blended with other fibers such as cotton and wool.
The company has dubbed this high-quality polyester fiber "Ecospun," and the impact on the environment is obvious.
The company estimates that 2 million plastic bottles are used every 10 minutes in the United States alone, and that annually 51 billion bottles — enough to circle the Earth five times if laid end-to-end — wind up in American landfills.
With 10 plastic bottles being enough to make one pound of Ecospun fiber, 48 bottles could be used to make a 6-by-8 carpet, 17 bottles would be enough to make a sweatshirt, and 90 bottles could be used to produce the back seat of a car, by Foss' calculations.
With Foss' estimated 2006 net sales at in excess of $46 million, the number of bottles that are needed to generate the fiber necessary to produce those sales removes millions of non-degradable plastic bottles from U.S. landfills.
However, the real breakthrough has to do with the "clean" aspect of the slogan. Foss announced this past week that its Fosshield® patented technology is 99.99 percent effective in killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria to below the level of detection within one hour.
MRSA is a type of Staphylococcus aureus (staph) resistant to certain antibiotics including methicillin and the more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin, cephalexin and amoxicillin. MRSA incidence is on the rise in the United States, and it has now become recognized as a major community-acquired pathogen and growing crisis.
The fiber has already received Canadian approval and has its U.S. FDA approvals pending. The American military has already placed orders for items made under this new process, DeGrace said.
The fact that Foss had been working on Fosshield for decades came to light after The Alinian Capital Group purchased the company in May 2006 for $39 million while it was in bankruptcy.
"Our strategic partners gave us a call about some of the products we had and the power of those products," said James Magruder, a Foss principal.
One of those products was Fosshield, Magruder said.
According to Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D., professor of environmental science at the University of Arizona, the fabric's antimicrobial impact ranges far beyond MRSA.
"Results from our independent laboratory studies have shown that the Fosshield® technology kills MRSA as well as a broad spectrum of bacteria capable of transmission by contact to levels below detection within one hour and in some instances less than 10 minutes, and also exhibits anti-viral activity," Gerba said.
According to the Arizona professor, MRSA survives longer on fabric than other surfaces. Therefore, the Fosshield® technology becomes part of the long-term solution to this crisis and an integral part of environmental counter-strategies in the fight against the spread of antibiotic-resistant infection.
"The key to the effectiveness of Fosshield's antimicrobial agent is the unique and balanced combination of nature's own active ingredients — silver and copper — embedded into the fiber," said Dave Cicchinelli, executive vice president of marketing at Foss Manufacturing. "Moisture in the environment, the same moisture required for microbes to grow, initiates the release of silver and copper ions from the fibers on demand.
"These ions disable the microbe's metabolism, inactivating them," Cicchinelli said. "The potential for continuous release ensures long lasting antimicrobial performance."
The long-lasting performance was of particular interest to Gerba.
"This ability to inactivate microbes in the environment on a continuous basis is important, because bacteria — including MRSA — can survive in a variety of conditions for long periods of time and can spread via dust particles, clothing, furniture or hospital equipment that have been in contact with infected patients," he said. "MRSA is emerging and spreading worldwide, and the number of infections is increasing outside the hospital setting. Therefore, it is important to broaden our arsenal beyond therapeutic options to include built-in protective measures involving high-traffic areas and materials in our environment."
Fosshield has also been shown to reduce other kinds of bacteria, including Streptococcus pyogenes (strep), Legionella pneumophila (Legionnaries' disease), Haemophilus influenzae (flu) and tuberculosis (TB). Results indicated a consistent and significant reduction in bacteria after one hour. More extensive evaluation studies are also under way for viruses.
"Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the threat of germs and mold, and the significant health risk bacteria is causing in our schools, homes, offices and cars," Cicchinelli said. "Fosshield® can provide continuous, affordable and natural antimicrobial protection in those fabrics surrounding us everyday. Manufacturers of consumer goods are responding with a wide variety of Fosshield® applications in apparel/footwear, carpeting, wall covering, linens, hospitality, filtration, health care and transportation."
One of the most high-profile product applications of the Fosshield® technology is Nexera Medical's SpectraShield"¢ 9900 Antibacterial Respirator Mask, which recently received a medical device establishment license by Health Canada for distribution in Canada. The SpectraShield"¢ 9900 is believed to be the only face mask today that is approved to provide "dual-action," broad-spectrum protection, which may be critical in the event of a major public health crisis. Nexera Medical Inc. has filed for regulatory approval with the FDA and NIOSH in the United States, and is seeking approval in the European Union, Australia and Japan.
"Ecospun and Fosshield are the wave of the future," DeGrace said.
Foss Manufacturing Co. LLC has been a global leader in the design and manufacture of non-woven fabrics and specialty synthetic fiber technology for more than 50 years. The current facility occupies 52,000 square feet of covered space on a 44-acre parcel in the center of Hampton.
As one of the world's largest needle-punch-based manufacturers, employing about 500 workers, the company provides highly specialized, cost-effective solutions that are custom-tailored to meet the needs of virtually all applications and markets.
Foss is the leader in bringing new and improved non-woven products to market through its commitment to innovation and extensive research and development.
Based in Hampton, all of Foss Manufacturing Co.'s business units are ISO 9001 and QS 9000 certified.
For more information on Fosshield®, visit www.fosshield.com. For more information on Foss Manufacturing Co., visit www.fossmfg.com.