Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are using more hand sanitizer than we ever have. It’s quick, portable, and a savior for when we don’t have access to soap and water to wash our hands.
Even though hand sanitizers prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses, recent studies have raised concerns over the chemicals present in hand sanitizers. They can be hazardous to human health if used excessively.
So, let’s explore the adverse effects of using too much hand sanitizer.
What are the Side Effects of Using Too Much Hand Sanitizer?
1. Skin Irritation and Increased Risk of Infections
Hand sanitizers contain chemicals such as alcohol, triclosan, chlorhexidine, and chloroxylenol. These chemicals dehydrate our skin. Increased contact with irritants can lead to allergic reactions, eczema, wrinkles, and cracks.
Using too much hand sanitizer also strips away the skin’s natural oils, causing the skin to become more susceptible to bacterial infections.
2. Antibiotic Resistance
Medical professionals believe that exposure to triclosan, an active agent in hand sanitizers, increases the likelihood of harmful bacteria developing antibiotic resistance. This means that the good bacteria that help us fight diseases would have lower resistance towards them. This can weaken our immune system and endanger our health.
In addition to that, studies have proved that high levels of triclosan exposure can make children and teens vulnerable to hay fever and allergies.
3. Hormonal Disruption
Another adverse side effect of triclosan is the disruption of hormones in the body. Doctors reveal that the fragrance included in hand sanitizers contains toxic chemicals, including parabens and phthalates.
Animal studies have shown that the toxins in triclosan can harm reproductive development, birth outcomes, and fertility. Experts are still investigating how triclosan affects humans. However, there are plenty of reasons to avoid it.
4. Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol in hand sanitizers works as an active ingredient that kills bacteria. Yet, not all alcohol is the same. Hand sanitizers should only contain ethyl alcohol or ethanol. This is the type of alcohol you can find in alcoholic beverages and topical products.
Nonetheless, some brands include methanol or wood alcohol which is unsuitable for topical use or ingestion. Exposure to it can lead to blindness, nerve damage, seizures, and death in extreme cases. This is why the FDA has recalled multiple brands of hand sanitizer containing it.
Moreover, the ethanol that hand sanitizers contain isn’t the same kind of ethanol that you can find in alcoholic beverages. Alcohol found in beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages is non-denatured. It’s safe to drink (responsibly, of course).
Hand sanitizers contain denatured alcohol that has other ingredients added to it. It’s safe for topical use as long as you aren’t using too much hand sanitizer. However, it’s not safe for drinking. That’s why it has an ingredient added to it that makes it taste bitter so that it can discourage anyone from drinking it.
Despite that, most hand sanitizers have added ingredients that make them smell good. They also come in bright bottles. Due to that, they can tempt young children to drink them, causing alcohol intoxication. Children are also more likely to touch their eyes and mouth after applying hand sanitizer.
This can lead to vomiting, conjunctivitis, oral irritation, metabolic acidosis, hypoglycemia, respiratory depression, and in severe cases, coma, and even death.
Keep in mind that you also shouldn’t use hand sanitizers to disinfect fruit and vegetables.
Are Handheld UV-C Cleansers Better?
While hand sanitizers are a useful means of protecting us from potentially infectious pathogens, you should only use them when soap and water are not immediately available.
Other than increasing the use of hand sanitizers, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the public’s attention to UV-C light. UV-C light has germicidal properties that can effectively deactivate the DNA or RNA of pathogens, destroying their ability to reproduce and cause illnesses.
Moreover, scientists have confirmed that UV-C light can eliminate up to 99.99% of all bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, making it more effective than soap, bleach, other chemical products.
Using a UV-C light cleanser is a physical process rather than a chemical one. Therefore, it’s environmentally friendly and non-toxic.
It may also address the problem of killing viruses in the air in public spaces which wasn’t previously possible. Scientists are very optimistic about the technology.
One crucial factor to bear in mind is that a UV-C light cleanser can be hazardous for our health if it’s used irresponsibly. It can cause blindness and skin burns. So, using protective equipment and googles is a must.
In addition to that, not all UV-C light cleansers are made equal. There is a plethora of fake or low-quality UV-C cleansers and wands that do not provide the protection they promise. Instead, they create a false sense of security increasing your risk of exposure to harmful pathogens.