One hygiene product that has gained huge popularity in recent times is hand sanitizers.
As people are becoming aware of the importance of proper hand-washing in reducing harmful germ transmission, several hand sanitizer products have flourished in the market. People are often seen rubbing a dab of sanitizer over their hands to eliminate any germs that may be clinging to their skin.
Hand sanitizers are mostly used when there is no access to soap and water or not enough time to wash thoroughly.
But with hand sanitizers, there are two questions that strike the mind.
- Can a hand sanitizer serve as a suitable alternative to hand washing?
- Can it eliminate illness-causing germs in situations where using soap and water is inconvenient?
While hand sanitizers do kill germs, it’s important to limit your use of them. Excess use of this hygiene product has certain drawbacks that can cause other health problems.
Here are several reasons to avoid frequent use of hand sanitizers.
1. Harmful Ingredient Triclosan
In most commercial hand sanitizers, one common chemical used for its antibacterial properties is triclosan. But it may do much more harm than good. This chemical can contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
According to a 2006 study published in the journal Microbial Drug Resistance, widespread use of triclosan may pose a potential public health risk of concomitant resistance to clinically important antimicrobials. Another 2014 study published in Frontiers in Microbiology also notes that this chemical is associated with multidrug resistance.
A 2012 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes that triclosan, a high-production-volume chemical used as a bactericide in personal care products, is a priority pollutant of growing concern to human and environmental health.
The study found that the chemical can weaken cardiac and skeletal muscle contractility in a manner that may negatively impact muscle health, especially in susceptible populations.
2. Alcohol Poisoning
Even if hand sanitizers do not contain triclosan, it doesn’t mean that they are completely safe.
Another active ingredient in some hand sanitizers is alcohol that acts as an antimicrobial to kill bacteria.
Hand sanitizers that contain about 65 percent ethyl alcohol are harmful to the body when swallowed, either intentionally or unintentionally. Ethyl alcohol has been linked to immune dysfunction and hypersensitivity, which can cause asthma and chronic dermatitis.
Many hand sanitizers also contain isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), a petrochemical that is a known neurotoxin.
3. Not Effective against Norovirus
Norovirus, which causes diarrhea and vomiting, is very contagious and can infect anyone. Hand sanitizers are not effective in protecting people from transmission of the norovirus.
A 2010 study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology reports that despite the promise of alcohol-based sanitizers for the control of pathogen transmission, they are relatively ineffective against the human norovirus.
This reinforces the need to develop and evaluate new products against this important group of viruses.
Plus, a 2011 study published in Canadian Medical Association Journal found that health care providers who used hand sanitizers equally or more than soap and water for routine hand hygiene were 6 times more susceptible to norovirus outbreaks.
4. Does Not Work on Dirty Hands
After using a hand sanitizer, we all think that our hands are clean. But in reality, if your hands are too dirty, hand sanitizers will not remove all the residue or germs.
This is one reason why the CDC recommends washing your hands with regular soap and warm water.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Food Protection reports that antiseptics and wipes are not panaceas for every situation and are less effective in the presence of more than a light soil-load and against most enteric viruses.
Hand sanitizers should be used only when soap and water aren’t available.