Cloth That Clobbers Germs

SOMETIMES THE KITCHEN SEEMS LIKE A war zone. Raw chicken could leave salmonella smears on the cutting board, and lethal germs might be dripping from the raspberries. No wonder business is booming at Microban Products Co. in Huntersville, N.C. Since 1990, it has been supplying manufacturers of hospital gear with antimicrobial chemical additives. Mixed into synthetic fibers in protective clothing or bedcovers, these pellet-encased additives kill bacteria and fungi on contact. The pellets stay embedded in finished materials, impervious to repeated washing, according to product testers at North American Science Associates Inc., Kennesaw, Ga.

Now Microban is expanding into the home, supplying the pellets to manufacturers of kitchen cutting boards, pillows, sheets, bathroom towels, and mops. Toymaker Hasbro Inc. is test-marketing children's high chairs with Microban additives molded into the food tray. The treatment adds about $10 to the price of a $70 high chair, according to Hasbro. Toys may be next, says the company. One nice feature: Bugs don't seem to build up resistance to these chemicals, which are also widely used in antibacterial soaps and deodorants. And testers at Gibraltar Labs Inc. in Fairfield, N.J., say a battery of tests uncovered no indication of toxicity for humans.

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