All posts by Ginger Leon

against soap and nightmare

Hand sanitizers represent the exact wrong direction humans should be going. Wake up People and smell your nature. Okay I’ve seen some bad product ideas catch on; bottled water, drug advertising, antiperspirant, green machines, botox, air fresheners, blowers, car alarms, things that just don’t make life better, but hand sanitizer is topping the list.

It is becoming common practice to slather children’s hands with hand sanitizer before they eat. Great. Now picture what goes into their mouths as they eat; dirt, chemical residues, dead bacteria and toxic chemicals designed to kill life. Hand sanitizers are a horrible replacement for washing hands.

Sanitizers are not actually safer. A Purdue University study concluded that “while alcohol-based hand sanitizers may kill more germs than plain or triclosan-based soaps, they do not prevent more infections that make people sick. Instead they may kill the human body’s own beneficial bacteria by stripping the skin of its outer layer of oil.”

Rolf Halden, an environmental scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, contends that “the introduction of the hundreds of antimicrobial products has had no discernible impact on the rates of infectious disease in the United States, Not a blip on the radar screen, “he said.

Indeed studies done on hand sanitizers’ effectiveness seem to focus on their ability to kill germs, without considering other toxins that may be on our hands, or any long term toxic effects from the ingredients of the sanitizers themselves on our overall health. Of course those selling, and often testing, have a vested interest in keeping you in the dark about chemical toxins while hyping the dangers of nature.

In fact, hand sanitizers may be dangerous to our health. According to the non-profit group Beyond Pesticides, laboratory studies have found a number of different strains of mutated bacteria that are resistant to triclosan and to certain antibiotics. The organization also cites reports of triclosan converting into a carcinogenic class of chemicals known as dioxins when exposed to water and ultraviolet radiation. Besides cancer, dioxins have been linked to weakening of the human immune system, decreased fertility, altered sex hormones and birth defects.

We have been sold this product by advertising up a fear of “germs”. Well there are a whole lotta “germs” out there that we live with all the time, most harmless, some helpful. Even most of the ones that can make us sick are common and we only succumb to illness when our natural protections are down. It is a foolish path to imagine that humans will be safe by killing all life that may have the potential to harm us. It is a whole different paradigm than trying to build up our health by building the health of the ecosystem that sustains us.

Hand sanitizers endanger our children by exposing them to toxins, lessening their actual hand-washing, removing the natural oil protection of their skin and potentially creating bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. There have also been poisonings associated with the high alcohol content in sanitizers that have been ingested by children. (I would be concerned with long term affects of the ingestion of triclosan and other ingredients as well!)

There are also dangers to the environment. What effects will sanitizer run off have on our water systems? Two of the ingredients in antibacterial soaps, triclosan and triclocarban, have been found in waste water, fish, and breast milk. The chemicals kill beneficial organisms in the soil and waterways that break down debris and are the foundations of the food web. There is very little known about long term effects on the ecosystem. As well, there is the known detriment created by millions of little plastic bottles filling landfills for a product that is worse than unnecessary.

Just say no. Stick with hand washing. Hand sanitizers endanger our health, our environment and our interpretation of the world around us. Good ole soap (and I’m beginning to wonder if bar soap creates more helpful friction and therefore cleansing) and water (nothing cleaner than plain water!) is the better choice. A panel of experts and industry representatives convened in 2005 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said “plain soap and water, when used properly, are the preferred tools to rid germs from human hands.”