by Lance D. Reedy
Because of the COVID-19 virus, hand sanitizers have been flying off the store shelves. However, just how safe are they? For a while, antibacterial hand soaps were all the rage. When the news came out that the triclosan, the active ingredient, was helping to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria, smart shoppers discontinued purchasing these products. Are there similar issues with hand-sanitizers?
Several months ago, I was at my local optician’s shop, and I noticed a bottle of Purell sitting on the counter. I had never used the product before. Wanting to try it, I squirted a dob into my hands and started rubbing it all over. I thought maybe it was a gel that you would wipe on and wipe off. The gal said, “No, you just rub it in.” To my amazement the thick liquid just disappeared.
That triggered my thinking…besides alcohol, what’s in these products? Are the ingredients safe, or are there some downsides?
Of the good, the bad and the ugly concerning hand sanitizers, let’s looks at the ugly first. This headline appeared on Foxnews.com:
The article explains that products made by Mexican-based Eskbiochem may contain methanol. Methanol (wood alcohol) was sold as moonshine and is toxic if taken orally. The article says the following about methanol:
Significant exposure to the chemical can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death, the FDA’s warning reads.
That’s ugly for sure. The article lists the various brand names marketed by Eskbiochem. Hmm, names like CleanCare NOGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer sounds innocent enough. Buyer beware. Let’s move on to another article.
It looks like people are drinking the stuff because it has alcohol in it. Yuck! Because of that, the FDA is encouraging the manufacturers to add ingredients to the sanitizer that would make it unpalatable. You’d think it’s unpalatable already. We’ll move on as I don’t think any of our readers are foolish enough to drink hand sanitizer.
Here’s another article: Get coronavirus-fighting hand sanitizer from these unexpected brands
Due to the demand for hand sanitizer, other manufacturers have jumped into the fray. Please refer to the above article for a rundown on the 16 brands listed.
Before using any of those products, a smart idea is to check out the ingredients to ascertain if they are safe to apply on your skin. Are there any hormone disrupters buried in the list of ingredients? Some of these may be relatively safe, and others may have questionable ingredients.
What about the Ingredients in Purell and other sanitizers?
From DailyMed, Purell’s hand sanitizer’s ingredients are as follows:
Water, Isopropyl alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Glycerin, Isopropyl Myristate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Fragrance (Parfum)
When you rub Purell or other similar products into your hands as if you were washing them with soap and water, you coat both sides of your hands, and whatever these ingredients are, they soak into your skin. Just how safe are they?
Concern #1: An article from Newsweek is titled, Hand Sanitizer Speeds Absorption of BPA From Receipts. Whoops, BPA is a known hormone disrupter. The freshly applied hand sanitizer serves as a vehicle to better enable the BPA on the electronic cash register receipts to be absorbed into your body.
You walk into the store and slather hand sanitizer on your hands thinking you’re safer. As you complete your purchase, you handle the register receipt. You may have unwittingly enabled some BPA to soak into your skin.
Concern #2: An article on TheStreet.com is titled– 5 Hidden Dangers of Hand Sanitizers. The introduction reads as follows: Hand sanitizer has been used during the coronavirus outbreak to battle the spread. Like anything, use in moderation.
“It sounds pretty simple as an alternative to washing your hands with soap and water. It’s quick, portable, and convenient, especially when you don’t have running water nearby. Hand sanitizer or hand antiseptic is a supplement that comes in gel, foam, or liquid solutions.”
Easy-peasy and simple, right? Maybe. Here are 5 hidden dangers.
#1: Toxic chemicals: “If your hand sanitizer is scented, then it’s likely loaded with toxic chemicals. Companies aren’t required to disclose the ingredients that make up their secret scents, and therefore generally are made from dozens of chemicals.”
“Synthetic fragrances contain phthalates, which are endocrine disrupters that mimic hormones and could alter genital development.”
#2: Weaker Immune System: “Studies have shown that triclosan can also harm the immune system, which protects your body against disease.”
#3: Hormone Disruption: Another effect of triclosan is interfering with your body’s hormones.
#4: Alcohol Poisoning: “Just because it doesn’t have triclosan, doesn’t mean it’s completely safe.”
#5: Antibiotic Resistance: While the COVID-19 virus is not bacterial, creating more antibiotic resistant bacteria is a bad idea. If you contract a bacterial infection, now your immune system may be more compromised, which could make you more susceptible to contracting the virus.
Purell rated by EWG.org.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates hundreds of products with a graphic consisting of four categories:
- Developmental & Reproductive Toxicity
- Allergies & Immunotoxicity
- Use Restrictions
The overall rating for Original Purell Hand Sanitizer is 4, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst.
The concern for Cancer and Developmental & Reproductive Toxicity is low. Allergies & Immunotoxicity is rated high. Use Restrictions is rated as moderate.
It appears that Purell is one of the least bad of the hand sanitizers.
What’s good? Of course, it’s going to be something homemade where you know what going into it meaning no questionable chemicals
The recipe is pretty basic: However, it didn’t say how much distilled water to add.
- 2/3 of rubbing alcohol
- 1/3 of Aloe Vera Gel
- 5 drops of essential oil
- Distilled Water
One hand sanitizer that I have seen, and find to be less objectionable, is Dr. Bronner’s – Organic Hand Sanitizer Spray. They have the following verbiage on their website:
Our Organic Hand Sanitizer kills germs with a simple formula: organic ethyl alcohol, water, organic lavender oil, and organic glycerin—that’s it! None of the nasty chemicals you find in conventional sanitizers, but just as effective…
This looks to be safer compared to some of the above-listed hand-sanitizers. One concern, however, is the link between hand sanitizers and BPA absorption. If it’s the use of ethyl alcohol, Dr. Bronner’s could still cause a problem if you handle cash register receipts.
A hand sanitizer-less solution or soap on the go.
I have carried a one-ounce, small plastic bottle filled with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Pure-Castile Soap. I can use is in a public restroom. It’s incredible how well a few drops of this liquid soap will lather-up.
I have also used it while traveling. I can step out of my car, lather up with Dr. Bronner’s, rinse off with a water bottle, and dry off with a small hand towel. If you have someone with you, he/she can dribble the rinse water on your hands. You can also use a spray bottle filled with water only, for rinsing. This is a terrific way to wash you hands while on the go when there is no running water available.
Note: I have no affiliation with and nor do I have any financial stake in any of the products mentioned in this article.
Conclusion: There is no question that good hand sanitation is a smart idea, not just because of the COVID-19 virus but for preventing other cold or flu bugs. Good hand hygiene is also a wise idea before eating, especially if you will be touching food.
We have heard the admonitions, “Don’t touch your face.” Sometimes that’s hard to avoid when you have an itch, need to rub your nose, or need to rub out some dried tear junk from the corner of your eye. Keeping your hands clean certainly will lessen to chance of getting a bug when you do touch your face.
Soap and water is the consensus as the optimal way to clean your hands. Hand sanitizers come in second place. You’ll have to decide the risk verses benefit of using these products. If you do use a hand sanitizer, for sure, do your due diligence and choose the safest (or least bad) products. End