It is a bit ironic to sanitize your hands hoping to fend off colds and flus when the sanitizer you’re using may be contributing to much more serious health issues. Hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial soaps with synthetic parabens and triclosan are found to suppress proper thyroid function, increase risk of allergies, mimic estrogen, and contribute to long-term compromised immunity. Fending off illness needn’t be so risky. When it comes to hand hygiene, good old soap and water and/or an essential oil based sanitizer does a great job in killing germs.
Health risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers?
- Kills good as well as bad bacteria. Like our intestines, there is beneficial flora on your skin as well. Hand sanitizers kill microorganisms indiscriminately, however, good flora appear to repopulate quickly after use.
- It is not safe to drink. Thousands of poisoning cases are reported annually to the American Association of Poison Control regarding children and alcohol-based hand sanitizers. A simple solution, use sanitizing towelettes rather than gels around kids.
- Reduced ability to fight off infections with continued use of sanitizers doesn’t appear to have consistent results.
- Skin irritation, drying and redness can accompany continued use of alcohol-based sanitizers. Some people are more sensitive than others.
- Methylparabens have an estrogenic affect on the body. Most research agrees that parabens are best avoided.
- Triclosan, a pesticide used to slow the growth of some bacteria and viruses, was found in 2005 to not be superior to washing your hands with soap and water. Evidence is mounting that it is dangerous (disrupts thyroid, mimics estrogen) and should be avoided.
- Some germ exposure helps us build a strong immune system, so one must ask themselves if they actually want to keep a mostly sterile environment or not.
Benefits of hand-sanitizers
- When soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizers do reduce spread of germs that can cause respiratory or gastrointestinal illness by about 59%.
- Hand sanitizers were found to be better at killing norovirus than just soap and water.
Safer sanitizing options
- Wash with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an essential oil based sanitizer. Essential oils are naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial. Some brands are CleanWell, Herban Essentials, Young Living Essential Oils “Thieves” products, and All Terrain Hand Sanz. Santa Cruz County has plenty of health food stores that carry natural sanitizers and hand soaps including New Leaf, Staff of Life, Herb Room/Food Bin, and Way of Life.
Even with the best hand hygiene, you will probably get sick once in a while. Building a strong immune system through proper diet, an active lifestyle and stress reduction is your best shot at avoiding illness.