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Friday, Jan 27, 2023
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Clothing With a Real Silver Lining

For hospitals and health care workers looking to cut down on patient infection rates, Michael Singer thinks he has an answer. The chief executive of Strategic Partners Inc., a Chatsworth manufacturer of medical uniforms, is rolling out antimicrobial fabric treated with silver ions called Certainty. When a uniform treated with the process comes into contact with bacteria, the silver limits its growth, assuring that it soon dies off. As an added benefit, Certainty is supposed to reduce odor and discoloration caused by bacteria in the fabric. Silver has functioned as an antimicrobial since ancient times, but in the last 20 years it has gained new currency, appearing in products ranging from heart valves to Band-Aids. Certainty uses a polymer coating to secure silver to the surface of the fabric, a technology developed by Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich. Strategic Partners launched the first line of Certainty scrubs and lab coats in April. While there are competing technologies in the market, Singer feels his company has the upper hand simply because of its scale. Through licensing agreements, the company produces uniforms under the Cherokee and Dickie’s brands, two of the most popular in the market. It employs 450 people and makes more than 100,000 different products. “The scrub market is very complex because it requires carrying a tremendous inventory of men’s, women’s, sizes, styles, colors and a variety of brands,” he said. “We take antimicrobial and add it on top of all that.” Singer figures a typical nurse top costs $15 to $30 at retail, with Certainty adding $1 to $2 to that price. Strategic Partners sells the garments wholesale to retail stores, catalog publishers and websites, which in turn sell to medical personnel. While Singer declined to discuss revenue, he said he anticipates that during its first year, Certainty will account for 5 to 6 percent of sales. Marni Jennifer Penta is chief executive of ProWearPlus Uniforms, a West L.A. retailer of medical apparelthat has carried Strategic Partners merchandise since 2009. She said the reaction to Certainty been very strong from her customers, which include nurses, doctors groups and hospitals. “In fact, many of our customers have asked to be put on a waiting list so that they can be notified of future Strategic Partners product launches featuring Certainty,” she said. A study published in 2013 in the Journal of Hospital Medicine found no evidence that antimicrobial scrubs decreased contamination, but Singer said his company has lab tests showing 99 percent bacterial reduction even after 50 washings of the garments. Jennifer Bayer, vice president of external affairs at the Hospital Association of Southern California, said hospitals take a keen interest in any method to lower infection rates, from hand-washing to antibiotics. “It is one more approach, and obviously if it has the opportunity to lower rates, hospitals are open to examining it,” she said. – Joel Russell

Joel Russel
Joel Russel
Joel Russell joined the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2006 as a reporter. He transferred to sister publication San Fernando Valley Business Journal in 2012 as managing editor. Since he assumed the position of editor in 2015, the Business Journal has been recognized four times as the best small-circulation tabloid business publication in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers. Previously, he worked as senior editor at Hispanic Business magazine and editor of Business Mexico.
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