The Case Against Hand Sanitizers
Hand sanitizers became popular as an emergency reaction to the threat of the H1N1 flu virus, MRSA and other superbug threats (real or imagined) a number of years ago. Schools, churches and other institutions began stocking up on hand sanitizer and providing it everywhere for preventative measures. While it may have been a prudent precautionary measure when the threat of H1N1 was relatively unknown, hand sanitizers have now become commonplace. Unfortunately, hand sanitizers by their nature are designed for emergency use only and not a daily substitute for soap and water or other common hygiene practices. An early sanitizing ingredient, Triclosan, is among the worst types of hand sanitizers. This specific substance appears be an endocrine-disruptor and is a persistent toxin that is accumulating in the sediment of our lakes and streams. Fortunately, hand sanitizers are more commonly alcohol-based, which is bad, rather than very bad.
There are numerous health concerns associated with regular hand sanitizer use:
- Muscle weakness and disruption
- Defatting and weakening of the skin
- Disruption of the immune system, which may in turn be linked to an increase in allergies/asthma
- Promotes the misconception that all microbes/bacteria are bad/infectious. The opposite is true.
- Promoting the concept that good hygiene can be shortcut. People are using hand sanitizer out of laziness rather than seeking out soap and water.
- Sanitizer is lethal to the beneficial bacteria that live on your skin and work in conjunction with your immune system.
- Soap and water promotes the proper sloughing off of the weakest portions of your protective layer of dead skin cells.
- Chemical disinfection advances the natural selects for bacterial resistance and superbugs. We have seen this in the area of antibiotics and it applies to disinfectants as well. As antibiotics become increasingly overused, resistant-strains evolve such as MRSA.
- Refer to the hygiene hypothesis why a long-term outlook on the immune system which includes regular challenges and stimulation is better than a short-sighted one.
There are numerous studies that show that hand sanitizer is not as effective as it is promoted by the manufacturer (and that is a good thing!). If germs start developing a resistance to alcohol, humanity is going to be in big trouble! Don't think that it can't happen. There is a mold that has learned to live in the presence of and digest jet fuel!
Its time to get back to soap and water and leave disinfection to the hospital and restaurant pros.
Some Good News in the War Against Sanitizers...
A few manufacturers of toothpaste are starting to move away from chemical preservatives and are starting to recognize beneficial bacteria, which will be intentionally added to the toothpaste formula. Studies have shown it might be better to work with the oral mechanisms of the immune system rather than to work against it by sterilizing the mouth. Some of these manufacturers also make hand sanitizers.
In addition, the FDA has started to closely scrutinize the claims and supposed benefits of hand sanitizers. The FDA was poised to enact major enforcement actions against hand sanitizer manufacturers. Unfortunately, the Covid 19 Pandemic happened and we lost sight of the science of sanitizers in our misplaced zeal to disinfect our hands rather than surfaces.
Its possible we will someday see hand de-sanitizers (a gel that contains and supports healthy bacteria on the hands)!
Think Clean... Don't Sanitize!!!
The basic difference between cleaning and sanitizing:
Cleaning removes the biofilm/dead skin layer/bacterial food source.
Sanitizing kills the surface layers of bacteria but does not necessarily penetrate deep films nor remove the food source.