Sanitize Safely

by Ron & Lisa Beres on November 11, 2011 · 2 comments

Sanitize Safely

Where in the world is Matt Lauer?  If you are not a fan of the Today Show, then you may not be aware that Matt is currently traveling the globe and, when recently asked what the one thing he insists on carrying with him when traveling is, he replied, ‘Purell.’  Matt realizes that keeping his hands germ free during travel is imperative to staying healthy.  But, what Matt doesn’t know is that Purell is not the answer!

We have become a self-professed, germ phobic society where many people won’t even shake hands without fear of becoming ill.  The implementation of antibacterial handy wipes at grocery store entrances and travel-sized hand sanitizer bottles stockpiled at every checkout stand have provided a sense of security for many weary people.  However, is there a down side to this fear?

To begin, let’s review some of the commonalities and differences between waterless hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizers use alcohol as the main ingredient to kill germs.  The Center for Disease Control recommends they contain at least 60% alcohol; those containing less have been proven to be ineffective. Most hand sanitizers contain either ethyl alcohol or isopropanol; synthetic fragrance; propylene glycol and parabens.  Hand sanitizers are not cleaning agents so they don’t actually remove dirt from the surface.  According to the Food Safety Network at Kansas State University, hand sanitizers are not as effective as hand washing in the removal of viruses, spores and fungi. Additionally, research from Purdue University reveals that traditional hand sanitizers do not significantly reduce the overall amount of bacteria on the hands, and in some cases they may even increase it by stripping the skin of the outer layer of oil which normally prevents resident bacteria from coming to the surface.  Opt instead for good old fashioned hand washing using hot water, plain soap and a bit of elbow grease whilst singing the tune of Happy Birthday twice.  Taught to me by an old nurse friend, this technique will assure you have washed long enough.  When hand washing is not an option, then be sure to sanitize safely with our recommendations.  Below is a list of common hand sanitizer ingredients – including a few culprits to avoid.

  • Ethyl alcohol, also called ethanol, is grain alcohol or drinking alcohol. Ethanol is a renewable resource produced from the fermentation of various live cultures of yeasts such as corn and sugar cane. Organic Ethanol (non-GMO) is found in the EO brand of Hand Sanitizers and Wipes.
  • Isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is produced via a chemical reaction between a mixture of water and propene. Isopropyl alcohol is cheap to produce, so it is found more abundantly in commercial products.
  • Fragrance or Parfum. You want to avoid alcohol-based hand sanitizers that include these words in the ingredients list (such as Matt’s favorite, Purell). These are chemical fragrance compounds that could contain phthalates which are linked to reproductive problems.
  • Parabens Used as a preservative, known to be toxic and can cause skin reactions, affect hormones and have been found in breast cancer tumors. There are several types of including: methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, etc.
  • Propylene glycol.  A petroleum derivative used to maintain moisture in products, it can penetrate the skin to weaken protein and cell structure. Can cause brain, liver and kidney abnormalities.
  • PEG. Some alcohol-based hand sanitizers also contain ingredients such as PEG, which is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane; a suspected carcinogen.  Because 1,4-dioxane is produced during manufacturing, the FDA does not require it to be listed as an ingredient on the product label.
  • Carbomer.  Beware of greenwashing!  Many hand sanitizers claim to be natural, yet they use carbomer; a synthetic polymer to thicken. Look for natural hand sanitizers such as Hand Sanz that use wood cellulose and vegetable glycerin instead.
Did You Know? Hand sanitizers are not effective when hands are visibly dirty (Center for Disease Control).

The Thieves blend hand purifier is our personal favorite and is proven to kill germs and bacteria.  In fact, The University of Manchester published findings from their extensive research on essential oils versus the hospital super bug MRSA. In every case study it was found that Thieves ingredients 100% destroyed MRSA.  The Young Living brand of Thieves hand sanitizer consists of peppermint essential oil, which is used to denature the ethanol versus the synthetic chemicals commonly found in other hand sanitizers. Add to this the plethora of documentation, including research from Weber State University indicating that most viruses, fungi, and bacteria cannot live in the presence of many essential oils. Some of the oils found in the Thieves blend include: clove, eucalyptus radiata, cinnamon, rosemary, and lemon.  These oils are highly antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-infectious and protect the body against such foreign agents as viruses, flu, colds, sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, sore throats, cuts, and more.

Additional brands we recommend include:  All Terrain Hand Sanz; a natural and biodegradable hand sanitizer proven to kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria, pneumonia, e. coli and MRSA in 15 seconds without harsh chemicals.  The EO Hand Sanitizer is a biodegradable, organic, plant-based hand sanitizer which also uses certified organic lavender essential oil.  Also, try Cleanwell which contains thyme oil.  These are alcohol-free wipes making them perfect for kids!

Finally, long term application of hand sanitizers to the skin can result in whitening and drying of the skin; leaving skin overly dry which is the #1 complaint from hand sanitizer users.  Even the Center for Disease Control reports that allergic contact dermatitis and even hives are triggered by use of hand hygiene products.  Remember, hand sanitizers are not are a replacement for soap and water, but healthy versions can be an important adjunct to optimal hygiene.  Clean responsibly! 

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