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Helping to remove some of the carcinogenic contamination threats faced by firefighters is the thinking behind a range of products developed by Wigan-based business De-Wipe. 

The company was set up by Jo Taylor in 2018 and has teamed up with the Innovation Service at the Business Growth Hub to develop the only UK-manufactured biodegradable wipes that can help to remove post-fire contaminants from the skin and provide long-lasting protection from toxic hazards. 

Helping to remove some of the carcinogenic contamination threats faced by firefighters is the thinking behind a range of products developed by Wigan-based business

Together they have made cancer the leading cause of death among firefighters. But it’s not just about breathing in these contaminants. Toxicological research has shown that harmful toxins are also absorbed through the skin - it’s this that we wanted to address with our de-contamination wipes. 

Jo tells us about her journey - 

We needed to validate the wipes and scientifically show that they did what we said 
They contain a scientifically formulated solution to help remove and reduce carcinogens and bacteria. Its key ingredient is micellar water, a proactive compound that defends the skin against hydrocarbons, soot and dirt. 

I already knew about the Growth Hub, having worked with their Manufacturing Service to develop Reach and Rescue, a lifesaving water rescue system which I developed through another business and which recently won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise. 

It was clear that we needed to team up with academic researchers but finding the right university was a huge task. So we started working with Steph Stafford, an innovation advisor at the Growth Hub. She helped to develop a brief about what we needed and through her contacts introduced us to the Ecology & Environment Research Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). It was the start of a long and ongoing collaboration. 

Working with Steph speeded the whole process up so much. The MMU team undertook laboratory testing to assess the wipes and show that they were far more effective at removing contaminants from the skin than ordinary skin wipes or washing.  

We’d also had a lot enquiries around COVID-19, so we carried out a second study to test the effectiveness of the wipes at killing microbiological agents, too. 

Both tests proved the efficacy of the product, and we were able to use the reports, and the data, to start marketing the wipes. 

The Hub helped us to trademark the wipes too. Intellectual property is such a complicated and time-consuming process but having someone like Steph who we could turn to for support was brilliant. It was one less thing that we had to worry about. 

I’d always thought there were opportunities for further products in the range. The wipes proved incredibly successful and popular, so we decided to launch a complementary range of anti-bacterial hair and body wash. We wanted to diversify into new markets and create a broader appeal for the new products, looking at additional sectors such as construction, oil and gas, and the prison service. 

This meant more testing to enable successful commercialisation, we needed to show that the product’s core active ingredient was effective at destroying bacteria and viruses, too. To do this, we were able to tap back into our relationship with MMU.

Our premise was that persistent organic pollutants are extremely toxic and highly persistent – they simply don’t degrade. As a result they can accumulate both at someone’s place of work but also on their body and in their hair.

Washing these toxins off as soon as possible after exposure is the best way to reduce the risk of adverse health effects. As well as firefighting, this is also relevant to people working in sectors such as steel and mechanical engineering.

Everyday shampoo and shower gels don’t remove these contaminants. But the results of our investigation showed that De-wipe Hair and Body Wash remove over 80% of dioxins from the skin and, a 1% solution can remove the majority of the dioxins from hair. This allowed us to launch the new product in June.

We’re looking at further expansion, now! We’re continuing to work with the Growth Hub, as well as Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency, to carry out market analysis and look at possible new markets. And at the same time, we’ve been introduced to the Department for International Trade, with who we’re working to expand the brand into Europe.