7 Ways Hand Sanitizer Is Bad For Your Health
It’s almost hard to remember a time before hand sanitizer. A convenient way to clean your hands after touching common public items like shopping carts and elevator buttons, hand sanitizer became more popular than ever when the COVID-19 began.
While washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water is the most effective way to remove bacteria and viruses, hand sanitizer or sanitizing hand wipes are a convenient alternative when you’re on-the-go.
However, with our increased use of hand sanitizer, there are certain factors you need to watch out for and certain ingredients to avoid. Here are seven reasons why hand sanitizer may be bad for your health.
Hand sanitizer can be deadly if contaminated with methanol
What is hand sanitizer made of? Hand sanitizer is basically alcohol, water, fragrance, and glycerin. The active ingredient in most hand sanitizers is ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. However, some brands have been found to be contaminated with toxic methanol (methyl alcohol or wood alcohol), which is not listed on the label.
Methanol is toxic whether absorbed through the skin, inhaled through the lungs, or ingested. It can cause blindness, seizures, coma, or death. You must never consume hand sanitizer. Always keep it safely out of reach of children.
For a list of bad hand sanitizer brands to avoid, check the FDA’s list.
Avoid hand sanitizers with triclosan
There are non-alcohol alternatives in hand sanitizers. These use a compound called triclosan (or TCS) instead. Triclosan is an antifungal, antibacterial agent used in many products, not just hand sanitizer. It’s also present in some brands of soap, toothpaste, and detergents. Triclosan’s most common side effect is skin irritation, so it’s not something you want to use frequently. But there are other effects to be wary of.
Triclosan can disrupt your hormones
Another thing that triclosan can do to your body is it can affect your hormones. Research and animal studies have shown that triclosan can make changes to hormones, although it has not been verified in human studies yet. But it’s not hard to see why anything affecting your hormones would be bad. It could lead to infertility or stunt sexual development in minors. For this reason it would be a good idea not to let children use triclosan-based hand sanitizers, at least until we know more about the effects.
Triclosan can compromise your immune system
The other thing triclosan is bad for is your immune system. Oddly enough, protecting yourself from bacterial infection can lead to worse infections. Research has produced results that show that increased exposure to triclosan leads to greater instances of hay fever and other allergic reactions. The research does not show that the increased allergic tendency is permanently compromised, or if it’s dependent on frequent triclosan use. But this would also suggest that people whose immune systems are already compromised should not use triclosan-based hand sanitizer. Triclosan was banned in hand sanitizers by the FDA in April 2019. So, if you find an old bottle with triclosan in it, throw it out!
Added scents can cause unwanted reactions
Speaking of allergic reactions, there is one warning hand sanitizers should have that is not based around alcohol or triclosan. Industrial scents are an anomaly in that companies are not required to disclose all their ingredients, so long as they’re not part of the active compound. So, there’s no way to know if there’s anything in the mixture that you may have a reaction to. If you choose to use hand sanitizers, therefore, you should avoid scented versions.
Or if you are the DIY type, you might want to make your own homemade hand sanitizer. There are many recipes available online teaching you how to make hand sanitizer, and you can control the type and amount of ingredients to suit your needs.
Hand sanitizer can wreck havoc on your skin
There is a reason why doctors and nurses wash frequently with soap and water rather than use hand sanitizer all the time. They know all of the above concerns, but additionally they know that frequent use of hand sanitizer, no matter whether it’s alcohol-based or not, will dry out and crack the skin.
Medical professionals’ hands are delicate instruments and should be taken care of at all times. Hand sanitizer is the last resort if you feel you have touched something that may have a contaminant on it. It’s better to wash your hands with soap and water frequently and use hand sanitizer sparingly. This will best protect your health and the health of those around you.
Expired hand sanitizer is not effective against viruses
Perhaps you found an old bottle of hand sanitizer in the back of your medicine cabinet. Is it safe to use? Does hand sanitizer expire?
The truth is that hand sanitizer does expire after two or three years. If you think you have hand sanitizer that old, throw it out. Once it’s past the expiration date, hand sanitizer loses its effectiveness. You can put your health at risk by using expired, ineffective hand sanitizer.