Hand sanitizer. You squirt it, feel the cool tingling sensation, and spread it all over your hands. Then, you feel clean.
It sounds pretty simple as an alternative to washing your hands with soap and water. It’s quick, portable, and convenient, especially when you don’t have running water nearby. Hand sanitizer or hand antiseptic is a supplement that comes in gel, foam, or liquid solutions.
Hand sanitizer often has a form of alcohol, such as ethyl alcohol, as an active ingredient and works as an antiseptic. Other ingredients could include water, fragrance, and glycerin.
Other non-alcohol based hand sanitizers contain an antibiotic compound called triclosan or triclocarban. This ingredient can also be found in soaps and even toothpaste. These products are often labeled antibacterial, antimicrobial, or antiseptic soaps.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says triclosan could carry unnecessary risks, including some on this list, given that their benefits have yet to be proved.
Recent studies have raised questions about whether triclosan might be hazardous to human health, as studies on the compound are ongoing.
If you are a cleanliness-obsessed germophobe who has made a habit of frequently using hand sanitizer like lotion, you will want to know the dangers we’ve dug up.
Here are five hidden dangers of hand sanitizer that you may not know about, but should…
5. Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotics are effective against bacteria. But what happens if your body builds up resistance to antibiotics, and in turn promotes resistance to bacteria?
Triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Using hand sanitizers may actually lower your resistance to diseases by killing good bacteria, which helps protect against bad bacteria.
In a 2011 study by the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that health care employees who were most likely to use hand sanitizers over soap and water for routine hand washing were nearly six times more at risk for outbreaks of norovirus, which causes most cases of acute gastroenteritis.
Overexposure to antibiotics or improper antibiotic use can lead to bacterial resistance, making it more difficult or even impossible to treat.
4. Alcohol Poisoning
Just because it doesn’t have triclosan, doesn’t mean it’s completely safe.
The active ingredient in some hand sanitizers is usually a type of alcohol that acts as an antimicrobial that kills bacteria. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control recommend ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or a mix of both in a concentration of 60% to 95%.
In March of 2012, six California teenagers were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning from drinking hand sanitizer, making it the latest in a string of household products used to induce intoxication, ABC News reported. A few squirts of hand sanitizer could equal a couple of shots of hard liquor.
And it’s not just teenagers. Younger children have accidentally ingested it in the past, according to the LA Times.
3. Hormone Disruption
Another effect of triclosan is hormone problems.
The FDA says research shows triclosan may lead to hormonal disruptions and cause bacteria to adapt to its antimicrobial properties, which creates more antibiotic-resistant strains. Animal studies have shown that the compound could change the way hormones work in the body, raising concerns and warranting further investigation to better understand how they might affect humans.
2. Weaker Immune System
Studies have shown that triclosan can also harm the immune system, which protects your body against disease.
Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that triclosan may negatively affect human immune function. Compromising the immune system can make people more susceptible to allergies, and more vulnerable to the toxic chemical Bisphenol A, which is found in plastics. In the study, children and teens with higher levels of triclosan were more likely to be diagnosed with hay fever and other allergies.
1. Toxic Chemicals
If your hand sanitizer is scented, then it’s likely loaded with toxic chemicals. Companies aren’t required to disclose the ingredients that make up their secret scents, and therefore generally are made from dozens of chemicals.
Synthetic fragrances contain phthalates, which are endocrine disrupters that mimic hormones and could alter genital development.
You should also look out for parabens, which are in many skincare products. They are used to preserve other ingredients and extend a product’s shelf life.