With winter and flu season upon us, many turn to hand sanitizer as an additional method of illness prevention. While hand sanitizers may create a feeling of cleanliness, however it is not nearly as effective as one might think; compounded with the additional chemicals found in hand sanitizers, and you might want to think twice before using.
As the CDC recommends, hand washing is still the only effective illness prevention and hand sanitizers are not and should not be a replacement for hand washing AND not all hand sanitizers are created equal. Read on to find some surprising facts and research on this $900 million dollar global hand sanitizer industry.
1. Hand sanitizers are NOT hand washing replacements, because hand-washing reduces ALL types of germs and chemicals, while hand sanitizers do not. Hand sanitizer are not as effective in removing germs when hands are visibility dirty or greasy. Additionally, hand sanitizer do not remove or inactive harmful chemicals, pesticides and etc. from hands.
2. Not all hand sanitizers are created equal. Just because the hand sanitizer smells nice, it does not equate to effectiveness. The CDC actually recommends that when you must use hand sanitizer, then use one with at least 60% alcohol. In fact, if a hand sanitizer is synthetically fragranced, it may actually carry even more harmful chemicals.
3. Non-alcohol based hand sanitizers use a compound called triclosan/triclocarban. Labeled and used as an antibacterial component in non-alcohol based hand sanitizers, triclosan/triclocarban use over time may potentially carry additional risks such as killing the good bacteria that protects you, hormone disruptions, and thus potentially leading immune systems to be weaker with extended use.
4. Some hand sanitizers, themselves contain chemicals and fragrances! Synthetic fragrances contain phthalates and parabens which have been shown to be endocrine disruptors and harmful to the body with extended use. Why add more chemicals to your hands when you don't need to?
In summary, if one must use hand sanitizer, please choose wisely and use one that contains 60% alcohol and does not contain other fragrances and chemicals. Ultimately, before hugging your little one at pickup, go to the restroom and just wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds! A trick we like to use in daycare is to sing "Happy Birthday" twice, which is about 20 seconds.