Handwashing is a scientifically established method to reduce and prevent diarrhea and respiratory illness. Due to the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Government health ministries and the World Health Organization (WHO) have put hand hygiene as the most effective means of preventing the spread of the virus. The increasing awareness of hands hygiene among consumers increased the demand and production of Hand Sanitizers. However, there is a great need to raise public awareness of these products. In this short article, we have provided basic information about hand sanitizers to help the public make informed decisions to buy and use them.
What is hand sanitizer?
Sanitizer is a liquid, gel, or foam generally used to decrease infectious agents on the hands. The ingredient that kills germs here is ethyl alcohol. 60 to 95 percent alcohol based sanitizer effectively kills the germs that make us sick. We cannot apply a completely pure free-flowing, quickly drying alcohol to our hands. More ingredients are added to make its smell delightful, staying longer on the skin and more convenient to carry. This means sanitizers are not only alcohol and water, that’s why it’s NOT safe to drink! Don’t do that!
An alcohol-based hand sanitizer that meets the alcohol volume requirement can quickly reduce the number of microbes on our hands. It can also help to remove a wide range of disease-causing agents or pathogens, including the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. However, even the best alcohol-based hand sanitizers have limitations and don’t eliminate all types of germs. According to the CDC, hand sanitizers won’t get rid of potentially harmful chemicals such as pesticides. It’s also not effective at killing germs like Norovirus, Cryptosporidium, which causes cryptosporidiosis and Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff. But soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs like norovirus, Cryptosporidium, and Clostridioides difficile, as well as chemicals such as pesticides and heavy metals like lead. Many studies have found preferential use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer over soap and water for routine hand hygiene might be associated with increased risk of norovirus outbreaks.
A study suggests that using Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an effective hand hygiene method that does not require water, but its use is not currently recommended when hands are visibly soiled. A hand sanitizer may not work well if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. This may happen after working with food, doing yard work, gardening, or playing a sport. If your hands look dirty or slimy; opt for hand washing instead of a hand sanitizer.
Hand sanitizer or Soap: which one is effective? How do they work?
Washing hands with hand sanitizer (alcohol 70%), soap and water works as a mechanical way of rubbing the bacteria distributing membranes of cells of the bacteria and killing them. Alcohol rub sanitizers kill most bacteria, fungi, and stop some viruses. Alcohol rub sanitizers containing at least 70% alcohol (mainly ethyl alcohol) kill 99.9% of the bacteria on hands 30 seconds after application and 99.99% to 99.999% in one minute. Waterless hand sanitizer provides several advantages over hand washing with soap and water. However, they are not effective if organic matter (dirt, food, or other material) is visible on hands.
Should you make safe hand sanitizer at home or there are other best options?
A lot of people on the internet suggest making hand sanitizer at home. However, you need mastery, experience, and knowledge on how to do so, and these cannot be gained overnight. Fortunately, there are many companies that care about the environment and produce organic and non-toxic cleaning products. These products use antibacterial agents that exist in fruits, plants, and natural oils. They use these non-toxic, natural, organic ingredients. Many companies produce organic hand disinfectants with a simple formula: organic ethyl alcohol, water and many organic ingredients. They are as effective as non natural based sanitizing products, but they do their job without harming our bodies and the environment. If there are benefits, safety and almost no harm, we should use natural-based sanitizers instead. These harmless products are available at long trusted prime dealer Know Your Body Best. If there are benefits and safety and almost no harm you should likely do it.
Safety: Is all hand sanitizer in Canada safe to use?
There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about hand sanitizer. Many experts are of the view that chemical-based hand sanitizer can actually be dangerous. Studies warn that at least some health care antiseptic active ingredients, systemic exposure is higher than previously thought, and existing data raise potential concerns about the effects of repeated daily human exposure to some antiseptic active ingredients. This would include hand antiseptic products containing alcohol in general, in particular, Triclosan, an ingredient found in many sanitizers.
The basic idea is; many hand sanitizer products consist of Triclosan. It is an ingredient added to many consumer products including hand sanitizer, intended to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. Studies have found that Triclosan:
- decreases levels of some thyroid hormones.
- contributes to making antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- can lead to development of skin cancer.
- effects on liver function.
- has been identified as a potential concern to the environment. As a result of use of this ingredient in many products, this reaches wastewater systems. According to Canada Health, Triclosan is not fully removed from wastewater during treatment; it can be released to surface water thus exposing aquatic organisms.
- is highly toxic to a variety of aquatic organisms, such as algae and fish.
Unfortunately, Canadian health department has not banned triclosan-containing products and according to their risk assessment, “triclosan is not a health risk at current levels of exposure”. Although many companies have replaced triclosan with one of three other chemicals — benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride or chloroxylenol (PCMX). However some studies found adverse effects of these chemicals on human’s ciliary motion, mucociliary clearance, nasal mucosal histology, human neutrophil function, and leukocyte response to local inflammation.
What is the recommended way to apply hand sanitizer?
Technique: Four Steps:
- Make sure all visible organic matter (for example, dirt) is removed from hands prior to applying waterless hand sanitizer.
- Apply a dime sized amount of waterless hand sanitizer to the palm of one hand
- Thoroughly Rub hands together covering all surfaces of hands and fingers.
- Rub until waterless hand sanitizer is absorbed.