Hand sanitizer - Rub a drop of that viscous liquid on your hands and they are free from 99.9% bacteria. But, when it was invented to use in a scenario where there’s no clean water and soap available, is its constant use warranted?
The bottle says it kills all the germs on your hands. But there is a catch here. For it to act properly, the concentration of the alcohol in the bottle needs to be above 60%. If it isn’t you might as well rub some sweet smelling liquid on your hands. Since the rampant sale of this ‘miracle’, there have been a number of products that are cheaper and promise to give you the same effects. Beware, look at the ingredients and check for the percentage of alcohol. 59% is not good enough. Cheaper is not always better.
We all know that kids come with the increased liability of touching unclean things and putting their hands in their mouths. And helicopter moms have found the new age solution to their woes – hand sanitizers. But, if you have ever read the fine print behind the bottle you will see a warning telling you to keep it away from kids. That is because your child could be seriously harmed if he/she ingested it. There have been a number of reported incidences of alcohol poisoning in children due to hand sanitizers. While in the case of adults a person would need to swallow large quantities for something untoward to happen, for children a small amount is enough. Added to the risk is the fact that kids tend to put things in their mouths – and the sweet, fruity odor only makes them want to consume it even more. So, keep your kids away from the stuff and if you do use hand sanitizers make sure you make them use it in front of you.
In a study published in the Science Daily, carried out by the Northwestern Research Center found that a child’s immunity is seriously affected by the use of hand sanitizers. They found that more kids were falling ill due to innocuous and preventable diseases after the long term use of the agent. The study specifically looked for the production of inflammatory products; called C-reactive protein (CRP) in the children’s urine samples. They concluded that ultra clean environments during the early stages of a child’s life lowers their immunity to such a level that their body’s defense mechanism is in a constant fighting mode, which leads to weakened immunity. This causes serious effects when they grow older as well, these adults have a weak immune system and an extremely sensitive inflammatory response that makes them vulnerable to various diseases as adults. (Read: Natural remedies to boost your immune system)
Some hand sanitizers don’t have alcohol content and use triclosan instead. Triclosan is an anti bacterial and anti fungal agent and is commonly used in a variety of soaps and cleaning agents. But, did you know that it is an active ingredient in pesticides? Another thing to consider is the fact that the compound has been widely touted as an agent that causes the formation of super bugs or antibiotic resistant bacteria. Triclosan, as a component, is capable of quickly being absorbed into the skin and entering the blood stream, once there, it is known to cause various side effects like cancer, allergies, hormonal and neurological ill effects and muscle weakness . More importantly, it is known to cause infertility. (Read: Top ten things that can cause infertility).
One of the often used compounds in hand sanitizers is Benzalkonium Chloride. Its main function is to dissolve the outer covering of the bacterial cells, in turn killing them. But this compound is about as bad for our cells as it is for the microbes. The compound has been found to increase the irritation within the mucosal lining and can aggravate allergic reactions. According to some studies it is also highly toxic to fishes and birds as well.
That odor of sanitizers that you love so much is due to the inclusion of a compound called phthalates. These compounds easily leach into foods and then into your body. So using a sanitizer instead of soap before your meal might not be that good an idea. Moreover, in a study conducted by the CDC (centre for disease control) it was found that children now showed 20 times more phthalate metabolite content in their bodies than any time in the past. A popular study called the Swan study, showed that women who were exposed to excessive phthalates gave birth to boys who suffered from a wrongly positioned anal opening and posed a higher risk of them being infertile or have lower fertility than normal.
After using a hand sanitizer you might feel that your hands are clean, but it does not take off all the residue. Things like fats and sugar deposits do not get affected or cleaned without the use of soap. So using it as a method to clean your hands after eating that yummy cheese popcorn will do you no good. In fact these residues tend to pick up more dirt, making your hands dirtier than before.
While most hand sanitizers do claim to have moisturizing effects, too much or continuous use of the agent can damage the skin. In some cases it may even cause your hands to become rougher than normal.