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Health and Fitness News

Getting Rid of Germs the Smart Way

Hand sanitizer is helpful for on-the-go sanitizing, but could it be doing harm as well?

When the pandemic hit, you couldn’t find hand sanitizer on store shelves. Now it’s on every shelf, wherever you go. You keep it in your car, in your purse, and on your bedside table.

Anywhere soap and water aren’t readily available, there’s always a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby. You use it, your kids use it, and all your friends do. When you leave a public place, touch a surface outside your home, or prepare to eat, hand sanitizer has become the go-to cleaner for many.

While helpful to instantly get rid of germs, some fear it’s not all good news. Which may have you wondering . . . does hand sanitizer pose any potential dangers?

Keep reading to find out.

Let the Ingredients Guide You

With so many people using hand sanitizer these days, some manufacturers started cutting corners. Thankfully, the government regulates hand sanitizer. The goal is to protect consumers from dangerous or ineffective ingredients. Despite this oversight, some risky ingredients have made their way to store shelves.
Before purchasing hand sanitizer, check to make sure it contains at least 60 percent ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. Anything less than this and the hand sanitizer may not do its job of killing germs that cause illness.

Due to faulty claims or dangerous ingredients, the FDA created a list of more than 150 brands of hand sanitizers to avoid. You can find the list at fda.gov/handsanitizerlist. If you have a hand sanitizer on the list, dispose of it immediately. But don’t just toss it in trash. Get rid of it where hazardous waste is collected.

Also, pay attention to where the sanitizer is made. Many dangerous hand sanitizers are produced in Mexico. Imported products often claim to contain ethanol (another name for ethyl alcohol). However,testing revealed they contained methanol, a wood-based alcohol used to make antifreeze and rocket fuel. This alcohol can be poisonous if absorbed by the skin or lethal if ingested. Possible side effects include heart problems, blindness, harm to the central nervous system, vomiting, nausea, seizures, coma, and death.

Also look for 1-propanol or 1-propanol alcohol. This is another possible harmful ingredient in hand sanitizers. Used to make industrial solvents, 1-propanol can cause skin irritation or skin allergic reactions. If ingested, it can lead to slowed breathing and heart rate and even death. Get rid of any hand sanitizer that contains methanol and/or 1-propanol. And don’t think all is well if these aren’t on the list of ingredients. They often aren’t.

Keep Out of Reach of Children

Licking your hands or eating after applying hand sanitizer may not seem dangerous. But swallowing even a small amount of hand sanitizer can result in alcohol poisoning.

Children are especially at risk for this danger. If a child ingests hand sanitizer, call poison control or seek emergency care. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include intoxication or coma. Heart rate and breathing slow. The child may become extra sleepy, develop seizures, and have low blood sugar. With the prevalence of hand sanitizers these days, it’s especially important to keep hand sanitizer out of children’s reach. For added protection, parents shouldn’t let their young kids use hand sanitizer on their own.

And be careful when leaving hand sanitizer out where older kids or teens can access it. They may intentionally ingest it in an effort to become drunk. Tell them that if they ingest hand sanitizer that’s contaminated with methanol, they won’t just feel drunk for a bit. They could suffer permanent health damage or even death.