Heads Up

Reasons To Avoid Hand Sanitizer

November 26th, 2018

Many people in workplaces, schools, and childcare facilities rely on hand sanitizer to help kill germs. They are also used in healthcare facilities such as hospitals where the environment needs to remain as clean as possible. However, there may be some dangers in relying on hand sanitizer to always do your dirty work.

Potentially Dangerous for Kids

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Flickr/Snebtor Source: Flickr/Snebtor

If ingested, hand sanitizer can be very dangerous. Most hand sanitizers contain 60% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol. If a child were to consume a large amount of hand sanitizer, it could result in death from alcohol poisoning. While it is recommended to use sanitizer in schools and healthcare settings, it is important to take caution and keep the product away from children.

Soap and Water Still Rules

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Nick Nguyen Source: Nick Nguyen

Hand sanitizer contains triclosan. Triclosan is used in consumer products to protect against bacteria. It is found in not only hand sanitizer, but also in many kinds of toothpaste and even clothes and toys. Triclosan has still not been proven by the FDA to be more effective against killing germs than soap and water.

Overuse Could Create Antibiotic Resistance

Just as overuse of antibiotics with infections can build resistance, so can the overuse of hand sanitizer. Using hand sanitizer is convenient, especially if you don’t have access to soap and running water. However, it is best to use it when there are no other options.

Not Created Equal

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Flickr/Valerie Everett Source: Flickr/Valerie Everett

When purchasing hand sanitizer, be sure to inspect the packaging before swiping your card. Not all sanitizers are created the same. Those with lower concentrations of alcohol will not be as effective at killing germs.

Microbes Still Remain

The Center for Disease Control reports that hand sanitizer can kill many types of microbes, that it doesn’t necessarily mean it can kill all microbes. Also, some people may not be using enough of the sanitizer for it to be effective or they may not allow it to completely dry on their hands before moving on to touching other surfaces.

Damaging to the Environment

Hand sanitizer isn’t the only consumer product that contains triclosan as mentioned earlier. Many anti-bacterial soaps also contain this ingredient.

When excessive amounts of this ingredient get sent down the drain, it can contaminate water supplies in streams and other bodies of water. Once it gets into the water system, it can prevent photosynthesis for algae in these bodies of water.

Not Effective in All Workplaces

You probably find yourself reaching for the pump when you hear a mucus-filled cough or powerful sneeze when you’re at work. It’s important to protect yourself from getting sick. But not all environments are created equal, and other chemicals from workplaces can counteract the effectiveness of the hand sanitizer.

In a study referenced by the CDC, farm workers who were surrounded by pesticides due to their environment actually had higher amounts of pesticides in their system after using hand sanitizer. So, in some environments, hand sanitizer can actually be counteractive.

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Flickr/Penn State Source: Flickr/Penn State

In summary, your best bet is to use soap and water, but if you’re in a pinch, hand sanitizer can definitely do the job. Of course, it’s important that you use it properly. Use 1-2 pumps and rub it into your hands until it is dry to be sure it is effective.

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Sources: [American Family Physician, CDC, Colorado Department of Public Health, FDA, Rush University Medical Center, Smithsonian Magazine]

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