March 13, 2011

Putting the spotlight on hand sanitizers - the hurtful truth (BORROWED)

Please Hold My Hand…….Sanitizer

I’ve never developed the habit of using anti bacterial hand sanitizers like Purell on a regular basis. I wish I could say that it is because I educated myself, and learned that using these hand sanitizers is potentially bad for my health and bad for the environment, but that’s not it at all. I just prefer the sensation of warm water and a nice smelling soap and I am not a germaphobe!

MA Representative Ed Markey is one of the leaders who would like to remove antimicrobial soaps from the shelves of pharmacies and supermarkets across the country. Apparently the chemicals used in these soaps and hand sanitizers have quite a negative environmental impact.

Effects on the Environment

Two antibacterial chemicals of concern are triclosan (TCS) and triclocarban (TCC). According to Rolf Halden, PhD, a scientist at Arizona State University, Americans dump more than one million pounds of TCS and TCC into the environment yearly from discharges of treated waste water into oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes. TCC and TCS accumulate in the tissues and organs of animals.1

Effects on Health

But it’s not just the environment; studies show these chemicals can adversely affect our health. An increasing number of studies show both TCS and TCC are endocrine disruptors that interfere with hormone functions in mammals and other animals. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that have been linked to problems, including cancer, reproductive failure, and developmental abnormalities. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, endocrine disruptors may cause reduced fertility in women and men, early puberty in girls, and increases in cancers of the breast, ovaries, and prostate.2

I’ve heard that the incessant use of hand sanitizers actually kills the good bacteria (also known as germs) living on our skin. While some bacteria get us sick, researchers have found a germ that actually protects our immune system.

Drunk on Purell?

Today, a discussion on my favoriteBoston Talk Radio show Margery and Jim on 96.9 Boston Talks asked the question, “Are you a fan of hand sanitizers or not?” One woman called in with a horror story. She said her baby was unresponsive when she tried to wake him up from a nap. Apparently her little baby was drunk on hand sanitizer after being “purelled” up for their trip to the gym and then again for their trip to the grocery store. Her baby sucked his thumb while napping and became intoxicated on hand sanitizer, which of course contains alcohol! After an emergency room trip, thankfully he was okay. Insane! I’ve never heard of such a thing!

Hand Sanitizers in School

I know my kids get their school supplies through the school and each one gets a bottle of hand sanitizer. Based on what I have found out today, I am thinking that their days of using hand sanitizer in school are over – especially when regular hand washing with soap and water is all you need!

Parents, does your family use hand sanitizers and/or anti-bacterial products? Do you think they do more harm or more good? I would love to hear your comments!!

Information Sources for this Article

  1. (, Arizona State University, “Fate Of Personal Care Products Linked To Environmental Pollution And Human Health Concerns.” ScienceDaily May 1, 2008.
  2. (, University of California – Davis, “Antibacterial Chemical Disrupts Hormone Activities, Study Finds.” ScienceDailyDecember 8, 2007. Last accessed January 10, 2010.)

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