Hand Sanitizers; Are they Necessary or just Another Marketing Gimmick?
I was lucky enough to go on a cruise, recently, and I was astounded by the number of hand sanitizers placed around the ship as well as the crew’s persistence in trying to persuade me to use the stuff.
I have been used to seeing the atomizer in hospitals and I guess, with so many people in close proximity to each other the last thing a liner needs to have a health crisis on board.
But let’s take a closer look at the burgeoning industry that I would like to call “Germ Warfare”
We are being frightened by graphic advertising from the manufacturers of these products to kill all germs, or rather 99.9% lest we fall for victim to colds, flu or any viral illness. We are encouraged to ‘protect’ our family against the marauding, unseen germs.
I would like you to consider how the over use of anti-bacterial products… from hand sanitizers to surface sprays and cleaners, might, in the long run affect our immune system and therefore general health. Many of the ingredients in the products have not been thoroughly tested for human safety, while others, through research, show toxicity even at low doses.
Interestingly, a study by the University of Virginia has shown that alcohol-based hand sanitizers didn’t significantly decrease the number of people infected with a cold or flu. Of 100 volunteers who used a hand sanitizer, 54 became sick with a cold or flu, while 66 of 100 people who didn’t use it suffered from a virus.
What is startling is that, while many people think hand sanitizers are effective and active for a long time after application, (call me suspicious, but that could be to do with advertising!) the fact is, according to Dr. Philip Tierno Jr from NYU Langone Medical Center “Alcohol sanitizers last only a minute or two and must be reapplied when recontamination occurs”
Even the U.S. Center for Disease Control admits that hand sanitizers will not kill all germs. And when reading the ingredients label of a hand sanitizer, the list includes several ingredients, not yet tested for safety in cosmetics. The remainder has been found to be irritants, toxins and carcinogens.
Add to that information is a study from researchers from the National University of Ireland that found a common disinfectant and antimicrobial agent used in hand sanitizers, benzalkonium chloride, has shown the ability to develop resistance to some antibiotics. The scientists found that by adding increasing amounts of the disinfectant to bacteria, not only does the bacteria survive the chemical, but also a commonly used antibiotic, ciprofloxacin, even when the tested bacteria has not been exposed to the antibiotic.
And there is more bad news for benzalkonium chloride, as the chemical is suspected human immune system toxicant, respiratory tract irritant, have reproduction & development effects, eye and skin irritant and can cause gastrointestinal distress if ingested. So just don’t use a product with this chemical as an ingredient if you plan to handle food or water, or touch your lips or eyes.
The chemical is yet to be determined safe for pregnant and nursing women or children under the age of 2. Benzalkonium chloride is the main cause of asthma and dermatitis in health care workers and professional cleaning staff.
Triclosan is another popular ingredient in sanitizers, both personal and household products. This chemical is toxic to humans, affecting the thyroid and other hormone systems. Research on a cross section of the American population detected triclosan in the urine of 75% of the more than 2500 people tested. In another study conducted by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine the chemical was detected in the urine of 61% of 90 girls aged from 6 to 8 years.
Triclosan contaminates the environment and the water ways it is flushed into from waste water treatment plants as it can not be entirely eliminated. It is toxic to wildlife and marine animals from algae to fish. Scientists have found traces of triclosan in 58% of 85 streams in the U.S.
Triclosan interacts with sunlight and microbes in surface water to form methyl triclosan, a chemical that may bioaccumulate in wild life and humans.
Triclosan and triclocarban have been linked to endocrine disruption, with potential adverse impacts on sexual and neurological development.
Alcohol, either ethyl or isopropyl is the main and active ingredient in hand sanitizers, making up more than 60% of the entire product. It is the alcohol that kills the bacteria and viruses.
However, ethyl alcohol is a penetration enhancer, taking the other chemicals deeper into the skin and into the blood stream. Not ideal if the other ingredients are toxic or even questionable.
Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is from the petrochemical industry, is extremely drying and is toxic to the nervous system. It is absorbed through the skin and from inhalation of the vapors.
Fragrance is used in everything. We are even encouraged to purchase instruments that will deliver constant puffs of artificial fragrance into our home to make them smell ‘fresh’! But these fragrances can be made up of more than 4000 different chemicals, many of them toxic. It is recognized that these chemicals can accumulate in the body. Phthalates, used to ensure the fragrance lingers longer are known hormone disruptors. Scientists have studied the effects of phthalates on baby boys and have evidence that they interrupt the babies’ sexual development.
These are just a few of the ingredients in hand sanitizers, you might be bored if I listed and explained them all. So, are we really waging a war against germs? Or are we being suckered into yet another product to add to the shopping list, fearful that we might be on the brink of a health risking epidemic.
It has been shown by numerous health studies that good old soap and water is more effective in cleaning hands than packaged hand sanitizers, without the possible dangers of adding yet more chemicals to our bodies and into the environment.
Add to that the positive effect on the immune system in building anti-bodies to naturally fight disease and I’d say we can well do with out these little bottles of poison that are rapidly multiplying through out the world.
Remember, even according to the manufactures, hand sanitizers only kill 99.9% of germs… what happens to the remaining .1%?
They mutate and become stronger, eventually resisting all methods of killing them.
Associate professor Rolf Halden, of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, a biologist and engineer, and his team conducted a series of experiments aimed at tracking the environmental course of the active ingredients in personal care products. The disturbing results of their research indicate that triclosan and triclocarban first aggregate in wastewater sludge and are transferred to soils and natural water environments, where they were observed to persist for months or years.
Antimicrobials were first used in hand soaps in the 1980s, and by early 2000, more than 75% of liquid soaps contained triclosan and/or triclocarban in a billion dollar a year industry, heavily promoted by the manufacturers in what can only be described as scare mongering. A disturbing statistic is 97% of American women tested were found to have antimicrobial in their breast milk.
Bioaccumulation of antimicrobial chemicals in animal species has been noted, this is where the reading of the harmful substance is far greater than the initial exposure.
The above excerpt of Prof. Halden from:-
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