Hand Sanitizer Dangers

Hand Sanitizer Dangers

Research has shown that using a hand sanitizer can help keep germs at bay, however, this disinfectant carries some dangers, of which its users must be forewarned.
WellnessKeen Staff
Last Updated: Mar 2, 2018
Washing hands
Did You Know?

A good quality hand sanitizer usually contains 60% ethyl alcohol, which gives it 50% more alcohol content than hard liquor!
Hand sanitizers have become an essential addition of our basic hygiene. Apart from using hand wash, some of us have also made it a habit to clean our hands with these disinfectants. While these products claim to kill 99.9 % bacteria and other germs, studies have revealed that hand sanitizers are effective but not foolproof and can be potentially harmful for its users.

Hand sanitizers usually contain isopropanol, ethyl alcohol, or n-propanol as its active ingredients. Alcohol being the predominant ingredient, hand sanitizers tend to kill germs more efficiently than the regular soaps available in the markets. Some of the inactive ingredients in hand sanitizers comprise humectants like glycerin, propylene glycol, and essential plant oils, that act as thickening agents.

Even though a hand sanitizer is a convenient disinfectant it can prove detrimental to our safety and health. This WellnessKeen article mentions the potential dangers and risks of using hand sanitizers.

Dangers of Hand Sanitizers

Increases Bacterial Count
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, hand sanitizers with low alcohol content can increase the bacterial count on our hands instead of reducing it.

The CDCP conducted several experiments using a 40% ethanol alcohol-based sanitizer from a discount store. The volunteers were asked to clean their hands with running tap water, antimicrobial soap, and then with the hand sanitizer.

The observation of the handprint of the volunteers on the agar plates, showed an increase in bacterial concentration as compared to other hand sanitizers.

Therefore, the studies verified the fact that hand sanitizers with 40% ethanol were less effective in killing bacteria as compared to the ones that contained 60% ethanol.

Alcohol Poisoning
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the Chief Medical Correspondent of CNN, reported that a 2-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer containing ethyl alcohol is equivalent to 4 shots of vodka.

In 2005, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 12,000 cases of people having ingested hand sanitizers.

Children especially, are vulnerable to alcohol poisoning caused by alcohol-based hand sanitizers, as the appetizing scents and bright colors of such sanitizers can easily make children want to drink this disinfectant.

A lot of teenagers are getting addicted to hand sanitizers because of the long-lasting high it causes. However, drinking this stuff is also making them sick.

According to AAPCC, the symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion, slurred speech, vomiting, slow breathing, pale skin, unconsciousness, low body temperature, and may even lead to seizures in extreme cases.

Fire Hazard
Alcohol based hand sanitizers are highly inflammable and are a potential fire hazard.

According to the New York City Department of Health, a hand sanitizer must not be brought in contact with an open flame or kept near a heat source, as it may set off a fire.

Therefore, one must always store the disinfectant in a cool and dry place. Those who smoke or deal with fire often, must wait till the gel has completely dried from their hands, so as to minimize the chances of contact burns.

Contains Triclosan
A study conducted by the University of California and Colorado in 2012, stated that a certain antibacterial chemical known as Triclosan interferes with proper muscle contractions in fish and mice.

This widely used chemical is present in almost all hand soaps, mouthwash, and other daily personal-care products. During the research, triclosan reduced the pace at which fish swam and weakened the muscular strength of mice.

In test tube experiments, the chemical impaired contractions in heart and skeletal muscles and similar results were found in living animals as well.

According to professor Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, "Although triclosan is not regulated as a drug, this compound acts like a potent cardiac depressant in our models."

Skin Irritant
Applying hand sanitizer over wounds, paper cuts, hangnails, or using it in excess can lead to itching, rashes, and burning sensation of the hands. It must also be kept away from the eyes and mucous membrane, as it can cause burning sensation and reddening of the area.

That being said, using the right quality of hand sanitizer and in the correct amount has shown to be effective in fighting against germs and infections.

Disclaimer: This WellnessKeen article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.