July 31, 2013 by Dr. Sana Keller
It’s so simple, right? Just a little squirt, rub all over your hands, no towel needed. It’s so portable, right? Just secure the flexible little handle to your purse or stroller, throw a small bottle in your briefcase or your child’s backpack, or just keep one in your car.
But simple and portable doesn’t always mean safe, especially when the key ingredient in most hand sanitizers (Triclosan) has been linked to significant health problems such as early puberty, infertility, breast cancer and the slowing down of heart function.
While it’s true that Triclosan kills bacteria, the growing list of negative effects makes it NOT the whizz-bang hand cleaner we may have thought it was—especially when there are other SAFE options. First, some of the negative effects:
- Triclosan is registered as a pesticide with the EPA.
- Triclosan is a hormone disruptor, which means that the extremely delicate balance of the hormones in our bodies (like thyroid and estrogen) can be upset as Triclosan is absorbed into the body. A study conducted in 2008 by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported that 75% of people tested in the US had Triclosan in their urine.
- Triclosan is also found in many hand soaps, laundry soap, toothpaste, facial tissues, toys, deodorants, and cutting boards.
- Triclosan is one of the most frequently detected chemicals in streams and other waterways in the US.
- Triclosan can be absorbed through the skin and also through the mouth (when food is handled by hands cleansed with most hand sanitizers)
- Many germs are immune to the disinfecting properties of hand sanitizers such as Salmonella, Clostridium difficile, Hepatitis, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) to name a few.
- Frequent use of hand sanitizer may lead to a greater likelihood of treatment-resistant infections.
- In addition to Triclosan, hand sanitizers contain ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol (some of which is absorbed through the skin with use) as well as propylene glycol (ingredient in antifreeze among dozens of other products).
- The fragrance ingredients often include multiple chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and neurotoxicity. They are found in the same category as second-hand smoke.
- A typical bottle of hand sanitizer contains the equivalent of 5 hard shots of liquor.
- Drinking hand sanitizer can cause blindness, internal organ damage and memory loss (our teenagers need to be warned about of this!).
- Triclosan HAS NOT BEEN FOUND TO HAVE ANY ADDED HEALTH BENEFITS over soap and water.
The alcohol-free versions of hand sanitizers don’t fare any better in the safety category since they usually contain benzalkonium chloride (not even considered safe by the FDA).
Obviously, the use of hand sanitizers during an emergency can be a very smart thing. Potential health challenges can arise from regular, ongoing use.
Better Options (using natural ingredients, NO Triclosan):
- Bar soap: Body Sense, A Soap for Goodness Sake, God’s Country Botanicals, Herban Lifestyle, Out of Africa, Rocky Mountain Soap Company…
- Liquid hand soap: Loving Naturals, Jaydancin Inc., Nature Clean, Bare Organics…
- Natural versions of hand sanitizers (these do contain some forms of alcohol to promote quick drying but NO Triclosan): Young Living’s Thieves Hand Sanitizer, CleanWell Hand Sanitizer Spray, All Terrain Hand Sanz, Bee Naturals, Hugo Naturals French Lavender, Dr. Mercola Organic Hand Cleanser, EO Products Hand Sanitizer Spray & Wipes…
Just another simple way to minimize the potentially harmful effects of a commonly used product—Stay well—and check out the Hand Washing Flash Mob below…way cool…Their message is for all of us, not just hospital employees!
Photo credits: skinstuffbykaty.blogspot.com & MetroWest Medical