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Hand sanitizer is a commonplace household essential, as well as a necessity within clinics. Its purpose is to keep your hands clean and sanitized, much more so during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep you safe. However, what if repeated hand sanitizer use was poor for your health and may even lead to long term health complications? Well, excessive hand sanitizer does harm you and may cause serious health complications. The product designed to keep you safe is equally capable of hurting you if it is misused. Within this article, you will find a list of risks and advice to help you use hand sanitizer responsibly. 

The CDC recommends the use of hand sanitizer only when soap and water are unavailable. Hand washing kills germs, such as Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile. Also, washing hands specifically with soap and water significantly reduces the number of germs and chemicals on the hands. If you are to use hand sanitizer as an alternative to hand washing, it should contain a minimum of 60% alcohol. Anything lower than 60% is not sufficient and will not kill germs effectively. Hand sanitizer is a great germ killer if used correctly. However, most do not know how to do so. User error may include not using a large enough volume or wiping it off before it has dried. Hand sanitizer also does not remove harmful chemicals from the hands. The CDC is not opposed to hand sanitizer. However, they recommend hand washing over the alcohol-based product.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA relaxed its regulations for hand sanitizer products, placing many harmful solutions on store shelves with little to no warning to the public. To combat this, rather than tighten rules, the FDA created an online list of 75 hand sanitizers to avoid. Since hand sanitizer needs to be of a certain alcohol percentage and engineered adequately, many brands are not safe to use. These products contain high levels of methanol, which is a substance that can cause blindness and even death when ingested. You can identify methanol poisoning through its symptoms of nausea, dizziness, weakness, and visual anomalies. Some o the brands to avoid are selling at large chains, such as Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club. It is also wise to avoid hand sanitizers made in Mexico because they have been found to contain up to 81% toxic methanol. The fumes from methanol-based hand sanitizers are flammable, so smokers or people near candles who use these hand sanitizers are at risk of receiving severe burns. Although, hand sanitizer of any form or manufacturer may pose health risks to frequent users.

Proper use is all about frequency. You must limit how frequently you use hand sanitizer because it is a last resort solution. One of the less severe risks you expose yourself to with hand sanitizer use is skin irritation and eczema from overuse. This may cause your skin to become dry, cracked, or blistered. Research has also suggested a contraindication that sanitizers with triclosan or triclocarban as an ingredient pose a significant risk to fertility. The overuse of non-alcohol based sanitizers with antibiotic ingredients has severe risks on fertility, fetal development, and asthma rates. Triclosan in hand sanitizers can also cause hormone problems. It is theorized that such hormone problems could stem from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which became resistant from the overuse of triclosan based sanitizers. Absorbing too much Triclosan weakens the immune system, which generates a severe danger to health when combined with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

Any hand sanitizer with too much fragrance contains harmful chemicals such as phthalates and parabens. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system, affecting body development and reproduction. Parabens negatively impact hormone function, fertility, reproductive development, and birth outcomes. So, scented antibacterial hand sanitizers double your risks because you may expose yourself to triclosan, phthalates, and parabens all at the same time. 

As for alcohol-based sanitizers, they kill off good bacteria from your hands. The removal of good bacteria puts you at risk of harm from dangerous bacteria. Alcohol-based sanitizer also lowers the skin barrier function, making the skin membrane permeable to toxic chemicals. For all those that care about the way they look and their age, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can rapidly age your hands if lotion is not immediately applied after use. Another considerable risk is if you cleanse your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer and directly touch something with BPA on it. The hand sanitizer causes the BPA to absorb into your hands up to a hundred times more. After absorption, a thin layer of BPA will stay on your hands. So, if you eat something with BPA on your hands, you are consuming a portion of that BPA with every bite. BPA is dangerous because it causes hormonal disorders, cancer, and a plethora of other body issues. 

The risks of hand sanitizer use do not outweigh the benefits. To protect yourself from nasty germs, be sure to wash your hands first and use hand sanitizer as a last resort. It would also be smart not to recommend or personally use alcohol-free or scented sanitizers because of harmful ingredients. Hand sanitizer does kill harmful bacteria, and it is useful in defending you from serious illnesses. However, it would be best to be mindful of which sanitizer products you use. 

Hand sanitizer is a vital asset to have in a time such as this. In a world of uncertainty, being confident that you can defend yourself from harmful bacteria is a much-needed comfort. Although, as with all good and great things, there’s a catch; the wrong hand sanitizers can cause more harm than good. There’s no reason to buy non-alcohol-based and scented sanitizers beyond the aesthetic. Alcohol-based sanitizers with an alcohol rating of 60% or higher are the key to hygienic success and one step closer to a COVID free life. 

Bibliography

Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). FDA Advises Consumers Not to Use Eskbiochem Hand Sanitizers. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-advises-consumers-not-use-hand-sanitizer-products-manufactured-eskbiochem

Korab, A. (2020). 9 Side Effects of Using Hand Sanitizer, According to Doctors. Retrieved from https://www.eatthis.com/side-effects-hand-sanitizer-doctors/

FDA Expands List of Hand Sanitizers That Contain Toxic Methanol. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/fda-says-avoid-9-hand-sanitizers-that-contain-toxic-methanol

Person. (2020). Why Hand Sanitizer Isn’t As Good As Soap. Retrieved from https://www.franciscanhealth.org/news-and-events/news/dirty-truth-why-hand-sanitizer-isnt-good-soap

R. L. (n.d.). Hand Sanitizers: Understanding the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Retrieved from http://blog.richterhc.com/hand-sanitizers-understanding-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly

Show Me the Science – When & How to Use Hand Sanitizer in Community Settings. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html

What you should know about hand sanitizer. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mclaren.org/main/blog/what-you-should-know-about-hand-sanitizer-1254

Justin Miller
Justin Miller

Justin was born and raised near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He grew up with both parents, grandparents, and a younger sister.
Graduating from Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School as a professional photographer, graphic designer, and audio engineer, he went on to pursue a degree in International relations and theology at Davis College. At Davis College, Justin founded the Isaiah 41:10 Homeless Charity. Upon the closing of Davis College, Justin transferred to Liberty University where he now studies Criminal Justice with a minor in Strategic Intelligence and a minor in Psychology. On-campus he was the former Director of Communications and Co-Deputy President of the Alexander Hamilton Society, where he has had the privilege of interviewing some of the greatest political minds who were fellows of AHS. He is also a member of the Strategic Intelligence Society, participating in covert simulation operations and other private practices. Noticeable achievements of Justin include the 1st place prize winner in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science, Multiple time member of the Presidents list and Dean’s list, celebrity connection with DJ Ryan Skyy, and Congressional Art Competition participant. He now serves as the Chief Information Officer for TopDocRX.