When most of us were kids, we played outside and we got dirty. Cuts, scrapes, abrasions, all were cleaned with good old soap and water. We healed and we grew up to be healthy adults.
These days, we are bombarded with antibacterial everything – soaps, wipes, hand sanitizers… kids are being scrubbed down to the point of washing away their immunity to germs. Unless you are exposed to germs, dirt, bacteria and the like, you never build immunity to it.
Are we being too overly protective? What’s really in hand sanitizer?
First, of course, is alcohol. According to the National Poison Data System, kids ingested hand sanitizer over 70,000 times between 2011 and 2014.
92% of these incidents involved products made with alcohol, which have the most dangerous consequences. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic sanitizers, though, had negative effects on kids. This has become popular among teens, but many involve small children who think it smells good, so it must taste good as well. Even when supervised many kids will try and lick the sanitizer off their hands.
In order for a sanitizer to be effective, it must be at least 60% alcohol. But that is far from all that is in these little bottles that claim to be keeping us safe.
Benzalkonium Chloride – Causes disruption of lipid (fat) bi-layers in cell membranes which is how it kills bacteria. Unfortunately, it also kills enzymes your body needs to stay healthy. These enzymes are what control how much water, fat and other materials enter the cells. It is toxic to humans in higher concentrations and toxic to wildlife in its smallest amounts.
Fragranced added – There is no current regulation on “fragrance” at all. It can contain a whole array of chemicals that no one is required to list.
Phthalates – This is the chemical that helps give it an “oily” feel. It has been noted in studies to have negative effects on male reproductive effectiveness.
Formaldehyde – This preservative has been known to irritate the respiratory tract and the endocrine system (regulation of hormones).
Triclosan – This is an antibacterial substance, but has been linked with failing antibacterial resistance over time. This leads to more illness and the lesser ability of the weakened immune system to fight infections off.
Our conclusion? – If you must use hand sanitizer, use it sparingly. Wash your hands frequently with good old-fashioned soap and water.
If you are looking for natural antibacterial properties choose a soap made with essential oils, which are antibacterial and antiviral. Wash your hands, rubbing them for at least 20-30 seconds, then rinse and dry.
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