Hand sanitizer may cause fatality if ingested

It comes in small bottles, wipes and sprays. There are even dispensers located in buildings right on Santa Monica College’s campus. Hand sanitizers have become a popular way to clean hands when a sink and hand soap are not within reach. With convenient packaging and small sizes, it is an easy on-the-go product.

But is it really safe and effective?

Recent reports have announced that hand sanitizer’s potential toxicity can have harmful, sometimes even fatal effects.

SMC student Nicole Thompson said she always uses hand sanitizer, especially when she is not at home.

“Even after I wash my hands in the public restrooms, I put some on because it makes my hands feel cleaner,” she said. “It’s always in my purse or backpack. It’s one of the things I don’t leave my house without.”

Thompson added that she uses hand sanitizer up to three times a day.

Health Canada, the Canadian federal health agency, is looking into the two recent deaths that have been linked to hand sanitizer ingestion. The two Bodico hand sanitizer bottles found on the scene and tested contained methanol, an unlisted ingredient, and not ethyl alcohol, which was labeled as the active ingredient, according to a Health Canada advisory.

Methanol is a highly poisonous substance, which can cause death in children if two tablespoons are ingested, and in adults if two to eight ounces are consumed, according to the National Institutes of Health’s website.

So why would anyone drink hand sanitizer? As reported on the The Globe and Mail, ingestion of hand sanitizer is on the rise, and used by teenagers to try and become intoxicated. Since the hand sanitizer has high amounts of alcohol and is available for a person of any age to purchase, it is an easier way for the underage to get drunk.

But while some are drinking it, others are actually using it to clean their hands. Hand sanitizer has become widely popular, especially among those with children.

“I have two kids, and I pack the non-alcohol hand sanitizer in their backpacks,” said SMC student Taylor Allen. “I can’t always be there to remind them to wash their hands, so it calms my mind a little knowing they have that with them. They think it’s fun to put it on because the gel is slimy.”

There are many different forms of hand sanitizer, including those that are alcohol-free, which use the antibacterial ingredient triclosan. Others can use a natural alternative with the ingredient witch hazel, a natural skin antiseptic.

While there are no known side effects of witch hazel, triclosan is an ingredient added to many consumer products, and is used to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Although animal testing showed a shift in hormone regulation, the FDA reported that there is no evidence that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water. The FDA advised concerned consumers to wash with regular soap and water.

With potentially misleading labeling and confusing information, it is hard to tell if hand sanitizer is an effective way to keep hands clean.

But until further information is released, hand sanitizer will remain on store shelves to be purchased by consumers.

Lauren NarvaezComment