Clean Hands: Clarity on Antibacterial Hand Soaps & Hand Sanitizers

According to Stuart Levy of Tufts University School of Medicine, by contributing to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers are contributing to a list of dangers, including resistance to antibiotics. Other concerns come from a prevalent active ingredient commonly found in antibacterial hand sanitizers, a chemical called triclosan. Evidence of triclosan disrupting the endocrine system and altering hormone regulation has been established through scientific studies using animals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

With these concerns, people are beginning to wonder what’s worse, the germs or the chemicals we use to kill them?

Janelle Sorensen, Chief Communications Officer for Healthy Child offers this: “We’ve evolved over millions of years alongside germs and microbes to the point that most germs and microbes are now either beneficial or benign to us. In fact, according to Scientific American:
“Most bacteria are well-behaved companions. Of all the tens of thousands of known bacterial species, only about 100 are renegades that break the rules of peaceful coexistence and make us sick.”

Synthetic chemicals, on the other hand, are a very recent development. Currently, we can’t even say how many we’re exposed to – and we have almost no idea how they interact together in our bodies. What we can say, is that there is a growing body of evidence linking synthetic chemicals to negative health impacts and fetuses and babies are uniquely vulnerable. So, while Healthy Child does not propose that all synthetic chemicals are bad, we do emphasize a “better safe than sorry” approach to exposures. If you don’t know what impact it might have (or there’s already a small alarm bell ringing), and you can easily live without it (or find a safer substitute), why take the chance?

We can’t live in a perfectly safe world, but we can be responsibly cautious – because nothing’s more important than the health of our children.

According to the Maryland Poison Center, hand sanitizers have an alcohol content higher than most hard liquors, approximately 65 percent alcohol by volume. The increased use of hand sanitizers has lead to some alarming statistics. The number of calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers reporting hand sanitizer incidents rose more than 70 percent between 2005 and 2007.

Another concern is that hand sanitizers and antibacterial hand soaps do not know their own strength. There is a chance the barrage of chemicals can weaken immune systems by killing harmful bacteria as well as wiping out the beneficial bacteria we depend on for optimal digestion, staying well nourished, & feeling healthy. Many expert medical voices are sending the same message. Tufts University School of Medicine studies demonstrate a need for concern about the possibility that living in too sterile of an environment can lead to the development of allergies, asthma and skin problems.

To read more on this subject, please see:

Wash Your Hands Safely
A U.S. FDA advisory committee found that use of antibacterial soaps provides no benefits over plain soap and water. Try this at home:

Foaming Hand soap recipe (Use this recipe for foaming dish soap too) :
Use your next empty container of foaming hand soap to easily make your own simple, much more cost effective refill.
Mix 2 Tbsp. liquid hand soap for every 1 cup water.
Source: & Good Morning America.

Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Rub hands together vigorously for 20 seconds. Don’t forget the spaces between your fingers, your wrists, and under your nails.

For a Safety Guide to Children’s Personal Care Products and much more, see:

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Claire Kellerman, certified ‘permaculture designer’, artist, writer and photographer, has shared her work globally.

Claire attended Sarah Lawrence College, graduating from New York University with a BA in Music and Writing, with a focus on the classic texts. Claire served as a personal assistant to Karin Frost, Ergobaby’s founder.