Hand Sanitizer: Working as Intended or Toxic?

You use it everywhere — before and after eating, before touching something or someone sensitive to germs and all the other times in-between. You would hope that your hand-sanitizer is protecting you from colds and flu, and harmful germs like E.coli. But is it working as intended?

Credit: yanec via Flickr

Credit: yanec via Flickr

It’s come to light that despite your hands feeling fresh and clean, they’re actually still dirty — very dirty. Sanitizers might even lower your resistance to disease. The main concern is the main antibacterial ingredient found in non-alcoholic hand sanitizers, triclosan.

Credit: K. Kendall Via Flickr

Credit: K. Kendall Via Flickr

There’s no good evidence that triclosan-containing products have a benefit,” says Allison Aiello, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan. In fact, hospitals across Europe and the US won’t even use them as it’s thought that they won’t reduce infections or illness.

Credit: greenasian via Flickr

Credit: greenasian via Flickr

When you expose bacteria to triclosan, it can elicit antibiotic resistance,” says Aiello. “Once the resistance is transferred, [pathogenic] bacteria can become resistant to many types of antibiotics.” (Quaternary ammonium, another antibacterial found in non-alcoholic hand sanitizers, has also been shown to elicit antibiotic resistance, she says.)

Credit: Neeta Lind via Flickr

Credit: Neeta Lind via Flickr

Dr. Anna Bowen, a medical epidemiologist at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says, “Triclosan-containing products don’t provide any disease protection beyond what you get from washing with soap and water.Research has shown that triclosan can disrupt the endocrine system, amplifying testosterone. In animal studies, it reduced muscle strength. It may also harm your immune system.

Credit: zmtomako via Flickr

Credit: zmtomako via Flickr

It’s important to note that human toxicity hasn’t been established yet, but the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is currently reviewing the issue. Just as important, triclosan doesn’t protect against viruses or fungi. ”Colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria,” Aiello points out.

Watch this quick video on how to wash your hands properly (from the CDC):

 

So what can you do? Use alcohol-based sanitizers (that are 60% alcohol) or go the traditional route, wash your hands with soap and warm water for about 20 seconds.

 

Stay Safe. Know Before™.

-The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team

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