Hand Sanitizer: Friend or Foe?

By Jeffrey Ou ‘15

Killing 99.9 percent of germs, hand sanitizers also harm your body.

“I frequently use hand sanitizer, but I never knew of its harmful effects,” said Timmy Dhakaia ’15.

Normally people think that the more hand sanitizer you use, the more germs you get rid of. However, the main problem concerns the anti-bacterial ingredient in nonalcoholic hand sanitizers called triclosan, which can be found at the active ingredients section on the back of the bottle.

Allison Aiello, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said on http://www.Upwave.com, “There’s no good evidence that triclosan-containing products have benefits.” In addition, she adds that hospitals in both Europe and the United States wouldn’t use them because it was thought that it does not reduce infections or illness.

Furthermore, Ms. Aiello points out that when you expose bacteria to triclosan, it will cause those bacteria to become resistant to many types of antibiotics. This will defeat the purpose of hand sanitizers.

The main concern, however, is that triclosan does not protect against viruses or fungi.

Ms. Aiello mentions, “Colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria.”

However, alcohol-based sanitizers are a different story. Dr. Anna Bowen says, “Hand sanitizers that are 60 percent alcohol are good at killing bacterial pathogens.” Anything lower than 60 percent alcohol concentration does not kill the most harmful bacteria and viruses said health officials in the New York Times.

Similar to nonalcoholic hand sanitizers, alcohol ones do not kill all viruses such as noroviruses, which can happen on cruise-ships.

In addition, alcoholic hand sanitizers also do not get past dirt, blood, and other body fluids.

Now, don’t think you’re safe just because you use “antibacterial” soap instead of hand sanitizers.

As stated in http://www.ABC.com, Dr. Eli Perencevich, an infectious diseases researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, found that 76 percent of 395 liquid soaps and 29 percent of 733 bar soaps, total of 45 percent of soaps, contains triclosan. However, experts say that antibacterial soap can help keep bacteria on your body in check.

“There has been no scientific data published to support the claim that adding these compounds to household product prevent infections,” Perencevich said.

According to http://www.smithsonianmag.com, a number of studies have found that some soaps might lead to other health problems as well. Children who are exposed to triclosan for a long period of time will develop peanut allergies and hay fever.

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention explains on http://www.livestrong.com that overexposure of antibiotic cause bacterial resistance. This can lead to bacteria becoming more difficult or impossible to fight against.

Many who did not know this information were shocked afterward.

“It’s funny how the things that are supposed to help prevent diseases and illnesses do more harm than good,” said Mia Roberts ‘15

Even though alcoholic hand sanitizers may help kill bacteria, people should use it once in a while. By letting your own body fight against bacteria rather than letting hand sanitizer do so, you are able to make your immune system stronger and combat other bacteria.

So the next time you stop by the supermarket, grab a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcoholic and does not contain triclosan, if you know what’s good for your health.

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