imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

How harmful are hand sanitizers?

My family uses hand sanitizers ever since it was introduced to the market.

It is handy, portable and convenient to use. Unlike alcohol, which is quite bulky, hand sanitizers come in pocket size, so it’s easy to slide into the pocket or shoulder bag.

But that was before, fellas.

I found out that hand sanitizers are dangerous to health.

My favorite health adviser, Jenny Hills says there are dangers that hide in the seemingly harmless hand sanitation products available today and this popular product intended to help make our lives easier, may, in fact, be making our lives worse. Let’s explore a few of the reasons that use of commercial hand sanitizing products should be avoided:

1. Hand sanitizers can increase absorption of harmful BPA

Recent research published in the Public Library of Science suggests that usage of hand sanitizers that contain triclosan may be harmful, as topical use of triclosan can increase the body’s absorption of bisphenol A (commonly called BPA).

This chemical can alter endocrine function by introducing excessive synthetic estrogens into the body, which can potentially have a negative long-term impact on health. BPA is a substance once commonly found in plastics and still used today in store receipt paper, making it a threat to cashiers—especially those who frequently use hand sanitizer. Research has shown that triclosan affects hormone regulation in animals, may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs and might be harmful to the immune system.

2. Many sanitizers contain phthalates and parabens, which can do more harm than good

Like BPA, phthalates and parabens can also interrupt normal function of the body’s endocrine system, leading to early onset of puberty and increased incidence of obesity and even cancer.

3. Even alcohol-based sanitizers can be dangerous in the wrong hands

Not all hand sanitizers use triclosan. Some products use alcohol, which is more effective as a sanitizer and is safer for human health than triclosan-containing products when used as directed. However, products with a high alcohol content can pose a serious danger in homes where children live, as a small child who accidentally ingests the product could fall victim to alcohol poisoning.

4. Sanitizers may contribute to the development of “super bugs”

Hand sanitizers are intended to be used to ward off bacterial infection. However, multiple studies have shown that use of these products has backfired badly. Rather than keeping bugs at bay, the prolific use of hand sanitizers and other antibacterial products has led to bacteria becoming resistant to those products, making these bugs more difficult to eradicate using previously effective measures. Thus, hand sanitizers do nothing to kill drug-resistant bugs and may, in fact, be helping these “super bugs” proliferate instead!

5. Sanitizers are associated with allergy development in young children

According to research published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, use of triclosan was found to be associated with the development of seasonal allergies in children under the age of 18 who were exposed to the substance. It is possible that the impact of triclosan on the endocrine systems of these young people is connected to their immune function, leaving them less apt to fend off allergens.

6. Ingredients in sanitizers can be harmful to the ecosystem

Not only can the ingredients in hand sanitizers be harmful to human health, it can also leave a big, ugly footprint on the environment. One study published in Aquatic Toxicology showed that even after going through a treatment plant, water containing triclosan could not be fully cleansed of the substance, meaning that triclosan was being released back into the environment even after treatment measures had been taken to remove it from the water.

So, which is safer to use: alcohol or hand sanitizer, fellas?

Hand sanitizers are not effective if your hands are visibly dirty. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. Always use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Research shows alcohol-based versions typically contain some combination of isopropyl alcohol and ethanol (ethyl alcohol). Versions that contain 60 to 95% alcohol are most effective. Care should be taken as they are flammable. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer works against a variety of microorganisms but not spores. Some versions contain compounds such as glycerol to prevent drying of the skin.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is more convenient compared to hand washing with soap and water in most situations in the healthcare setting. It is generally more effective at killing microorganisms and better tolerated than soap and water. Hand washing should still be carried out if contamination can be seen or following the use of the toilet.

Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol or contains a “persistent antiseptic” should be used. Alcohol rubs kill many different kinds of bacteria, including antibiotic resistant bacteria and TB bacteria. Alcohol with 90% rubs are highly flammable, but kill many kinds of viruses including enveloped viruses such as the flu virus, the common cold virus, and HIV, though is notably ineffective against the rabies virus.

And so, since I learned about these things, the hand sanitizer had long disappeared in our house.

For a healthier life, use alcohol-based rubs, fellas.

Happy rubbing!