If I told you to think of sanitizers, you would probably think of those cute little pouches that come in different scents and keep you healthy. The peace of mind associated with gel that will miraculously take all the bacteria on your hand away is welcome to most. Add in luscious smells and funky colors and you’ve got a recipe for the perfect health check.
Recently, however, there have been many studies published that indicate potentially harmful effects (yes, you read that right), of hand sanitizers. Although they come with a ton of benefits, such as guarding you from the gross germs that definitely came from touching that library book, they can also be potentially harmful if the right precautions aren’t taken.
The modern medical field is highly concerned with increasing immunity to bacteria. The truth is that we all have good bacteria and bad bacteria in our systems. The science behind hand sanitizer is to kill bacteria. The bad news is that, the alcohol that kills bacteria doesn’t have a screening for what bacteria is good or bad–it just kills all of it. With increasing use of hand sanitizer, you could lose the good bacteria that is actually keeping you healthy in the case of possible sickness. If you lose that good bacteria, then you may lose some immunity to the bad stuff, which could turn that cold from a nuisance into a trouble maker. It is important to note though, that this is only in the case of overuse of hand sanitizer–it’s going to take a lot to get rid of that good bacteria all over you.
Even more recently, hand sanitizers have been accused of increasing BPA absorption. In a University of Missouri study, subjects who used hand sanitizers and then touched items containing BPA had an increase in BPA absorption through their skin. What’s more is that the same study found that if one did not wait for the sanitizers to dry completely before eating, that person could double the amount of BPA intake by ingesting it. The science sounds really fancy, but the gist of it is that sanitizer makes skin more permeable. BPA can find loop-holes in the skin to go through and be absorbed into your bloodstream.
Ever thought of how nice those wonderful smelly sanitizers were? Think again. They may smell amazing, but the reason they smell is because of chemicals, some of which may be toxic. Some scientists are looking into the harm of chemicals that make scented sanitizers. Sorry, we’re going to have to skip Berry Blast.
While we’re on the topic of harmful toxins, non-alcoholic sanitizers have plenty of them! Sanitizers without alcohol have a chemical called triclosan. If absorbed or eaten, triclosan could disrupt the endocrine system (the one in charge of your hormones), as one study cited amplified testosterone levels. In 2013, the FDA was reviewing the issue of triclosan in hand sanitizers. Thankfully, the FDA has just announced that it will ban all soaps/anti-microbial products that have triclosan in them, starting in September of 2017. That’s one step towards progress!
All that may sound really scary, but it is important to note that issues will only result in the case of sanitizer overuse. Hand sanitizer can be amazing for when you can’t wash your hands, but it should not replace good ‘ol soap and hot water. Research has shown that washing your hand with soap and water is actually more efficient than using hand sanitizer. Think that hand sanitizer is quicker? Think again. Many health professionals with say that it takes up to 24 seconds to get rid of bacteria after using sanitizer! That’s longer than washing your hands with soap and water. If you can, wash your hands with soap–it’s much better for your health and your sanity.
While we all love hand sanitizers, we should notice possible problems that come with its overuse. With increased education and the right precautions, hand sanitizers can be amazing for everyone. Whether you’re a health fanatic or medical professional, we should all acknowledge the pros and cons of hand sanitizer the next time we think about pumping twice from that dispenser!