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What You Should Know About Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizer is everywhere, you find it in almost every store you go to and it’s widely available in hospitals. Hand sanitizing is beneficial to protect ourselves from harmful bacteria and viruses that can make us ill. Most people carry a bottle of hand sanitizer in their bag, especially when travelling (and especially on the London underground). 

I was surprised to see that there is a video, scaring people from using hand sanitizer; featured in IF******LoveScience and DNews. 

Recently new research has been published which tries to oppose the use of hand sanitizer by blaming its use on increased absorption of BPA levels in the body. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in a variety of consumer products, such as water bottles, dental composites and resins used to line metal food and beverage containers, and also is used in thermal paper cash register receipts. First data has emerged that BPA from thermal paper used in cash register receipts accounts for high levels of BPA in humans. Subjects studied showed a rapid increase of BPA in their blood after using the skin care product and then touching a store receipt with BPA.

Scientists at the University of Missouri tested human subjects who cleaned their hands with hand sanitizer and then held thermal paper receipts. As an added step, subjects who had handled the thermal paper, they then made them eat French fries with their hands; as a result, BPA was absorbed very quickly.

"Our research found that large amounts of BPA can be transferred to your hands and then to the food you hold and eat as well as be absorbed through your skin," vom Saal said. "BPA exhibits hormone-like properties and has been proven to cause reproductive defects in foetuses, infants, children and adults as well as cancer, metabolic and immune problems in rodents. BPA from thermal papers will be absorbed into your blood rapidly; at those levels, many diseases such as diabetes and disorders such as obesity increase as well. Use of BPA or other similar chemicals that are being used to replace BPA in thermal paper pose a threat to human health."

Furthermore, the BPA from thermal receipts is only activated if your hands are WET WITH hand sanitizer (which is highly unlikely).

What they fail to reiterate in the video is that the hand sanitizer was used contains triclosan (an antibiotic and anti-fungal agent), the culprit that makes BPA absorb into the body faster and that triclosan is based in non-alcohol hand sanitizers. They also fail to mention that the most popular hand sanitizers are the alcohol based ones. They have no triclosan in it at all. The active ingredient in alcohol based hand sanitizers is: Ethanol (57.6%). 

Why is hand sanitizer utilized in hospitals then?

A study published in 2010 (by researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville and Dial Corporation, Scottsdale, in the journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy),  suggests that hand sanitizers containing ethanol are much more effective at removing rhinovirus from hands than washing with soap and water. Sanitizers containing both ethanol and organic acids significantly reduced recovery of the virus from hands and rhinovirus infection up to 4 hours following application. Results showed that the ethanol hand sanitizer removed approximately 80% of detectable rhinovirus from hands and was much more effective than no treatment, water alone, or soap and water. Soap and water removed rhinovirus from 31% of hands. Proving that alcohol-based hand sanitizer can is beneficial in preventing illnesses due to viruses such as the rhinovirus.

So what can we take out of this post? That not giving the full information behind any story can lead to misinformation and scaremongering of people.