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The FDA announced today that it is asking for, “additional scientific data to support the safety and effectiveness of certain active ingredients used in topical consumer antiseptic rubs (including hand sanitizers) marketed over-the-counter (OTC).”

The FDA needs to demonstrate that the active ingredients used in consumer antiseptic rubs are generally recognized as safe and effective to reduce bacteria on skin.

These three ingredients include,

  • Alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol)-There is concern for irritation to the lung and skin. There is also concern that it causes  headaches and risk to a fetus.
  • Isopropyl alcohol-can irritate your lungs and burn your skin. Repeated high exposure can cause dizziness, confusion and death. The amount of isopropyl alcohol in hand sanitizer is small but the FDA will further investigate if there are health dangers at this level. 
  • Benzalkonium chloride- The CDC’s website shows that  Benzalkonium chloride may cause redness and burns to the skin. The amount used in hand sanitizers is usually small but the CDC will investigate further. 

Hand sanitizer verse soap

The CDC states that “Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of microbes on them in most situations. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol”.

There have been reports that hand sanitizer will make you more susceptible to BPA exposure, BPA is found in some receipts. This would would make sense. The alcohol can strip the skin of the normal protective oily layer it usually has.

There is concern that some hand sanitizers can increase antibiotic resisitance. These hand sanitizers usually contain triclosan.

Importance of hand washing

According to the CDC

  • “Millions of children under the age of 5 years die from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, the top two killers of young children around the world”.
  • Hand washing with soap could prevent about 1 out of every 3 episodes of diarrheal illnesses and almost 1 out of 6 episodes of respiratory infection like pneumonia.
  • Washing your hands often is one of the best way to prevent disease transmission. Consider hand washing before eating or food preparation. Hands should be washed before and after bathroom use or changing a diaper. Hands should be washed after any exposure to harmful bacteria.
  • Rubbing the hands together decreased bacterial counts more so than just rinsing the hands
  • Wash for at least 20 seconds.

Studies from India show that washing  both hands with water alone cut the rate of diarrhea by nearly a half. Soap may add bacteria depending on how it is stored. if you are using a bar of soap that is in a moist environment such as a little pool of water this can harbor bacteria. The refillable soap containers can get contaminated with bacteria as well.

October 15th is Global Wash Your Hands Day.

  • It has been celebrated since 2008 and its purpose its to bring awareness to the importance of hand washing.

Unscented soaps are easier on the skin Dr Bronners soap Ingredient list-Water, Saponified Organic Coconut & Organic Olive Oils (w/ Retained Glycerin), Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Vitamin E. Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade & Organic Castile Liquid Soap – (Baby Unscented, 32 oz)

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Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap, Basil, 12.5 Fluid Ounce (Pack of 3)

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