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Hand Sanitizers: UPDATE

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Here are two articles about alcohol based hand sanitizers.  Please note that you can make your own with pure essential oils and aloe vera in order to avoid some of the reported side effects of the alcohol containing products.  Pure essential oils are well known to kill bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Alcohol will dry your skin so just as with mild soap and water washing, use a high quality natural skin lubricant to prevent problems from dry skin such as chapping and cracking where viruses and bacteria can find thier way into your body.

Some alcohol based sanitizers have been known to cause headache, dizziness, nausea and other complaints because in order to be effective they must be 60% alcohol.

If the product contains Triclosan, also be cautious: Researchers who added triclosan to water and exposed it to ultra-violet light found that a significant portion of the triclosan was converted to dioxin. Triclosan reacts with chlorine molecules in tap water to form chlorinated dioxins, highly toxic forms of dioxin. The same study found that the combination of water and triclosan produces significant quantities of chloroform, which is a probable human carcinogen. Many recent studies have raised serious concerns that triclosan may promote the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. So while alcohol based sanitizers may not cause super bacteria. Research indcates that hand sanitizers containing triclosan can.

Triclosan has been found to kill off the protective bacteria on your skin and lead to a greater rate of infection and risk of MRSA.

The best method to reduce risk of disease is hand washing with natural, non-triclosan containing soap.
Hand Sanitizers: What You Don't Know
By Stephanie Tweito Jacob
We all know that having clean hands is one way to prevent seasonal cold and flu viruses, including H1N1 swine flu. But should you wash with soap and water, or coat your hands with disinfecting gel from one of those dispensers that seem to be appearing in more and more restrooms, offices, hallways and stores?

If your hands aren't actually grimy, the best way to clean them is to use hand sanitizer, James Scott, a microbiologist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health told "Best Health Magazine." "It reduces the bacterial burden to a greater extent than soap and water," he said. "And your hands stay cleaner longer than if you were to use soap and water."

The waterless gels and foams have also been found to be effective in preventing the spread of viral and bacterial-based diseases like seasonal colds and flus. One study found that college students with hand-sanitizer dispensers in their dorms had fewer complaints of coughs, chest congestion and fever. Plus their risk of getting sick was 20 percent lower than students whose dorms did not have the dispensers.

But the hand sanitzers must contain 60 percent or more alcohol, according to the FDA. Skim past the "kills 99.9% of bacteria" claim on the package and instead be certain that the active ingredient listed is either ethanol or isopropanol, at a percentage over 60.

They also must be used correctly. Make sure hands are free of visible grime and dirt and then apply a palm-full of product and rub vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds, making sure to distribute the sanitizer between your fingers, under your nails and jewelry, on your wrists and on the backs of each hand.

Never rinse your hands with water or wipe them with a towel after using a hand sanitizer -- this will counteract the effect of the product.

Another gold star for hand sanitizers: They tend to be gentler on skin than soap and water. Despite their high alcohol content, which is often thought to make creams and gels drying, one study found alcohol-based hand sanitizers left skin in better condition than antibacterial soap. "Most of the modern hand sanitizers have emollients in them that will actually improve skin condition," Scott said.

But, don't toss your soap dispenser just yet. While the high alcohol content of hand sanitizers can kill bacteria, it doesn't necessarily clean your hands. That is, it does not cut thorough grime like dirt, blood, feces or other bodily fluids. Therefore, soap and water must be the first choice in restrooms. It is also essential in the kitchen as alcohol doesn't kill the foodborne bacteria E. Coli as well as soap and water does.

The best way to wash your hands with soap and water is to rub hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing front and backs of hands, wrists, and between fingers and under fingernails, according to the Mayo Clinic. Rinse well, dry hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer and, if possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.
4 things you should know about hand sanitizers4 things you should know about hand sanitizers

Curious about the hand-sanitizing products that are popping up in public places across the country? Here’s what you should know about hand sanitizers and your health

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), 80 percent of common infections, including the H1N1 flu virus, can be spread through contaminated hands. That’s why the PHAC and the World Health Organization (WHO) are stressing proper hand hygiene as an important first-line defense against the spread of swine flu.

While proper handwashing technique is a vital part of keeping yourself healthy, good old soap and water aren’t always around when you need them (say, when you get an unexpected hug from a runny-nosed preschooler on the playground). That’s where alcohol-based sanitizers come to the rescue. The PHAC recommends hand sanitizers that contain between 60 and 80 percent alcohol as “an excellent” way to clean your hands when you’re not near a sink. Here’s what you should know about them.

1. Hand sanitizers are effective

If your hands aren’t actually grimy, the best way to clean them is to use hand sanitizer, says James Scott, a microbiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.“[A sanitizer] cleans your hands much better than soap and water, so it reduces the bacterial burden to a much greater extent than soap and water,” he says. “And your hands tend to stay cleaner longer than if you were to use soap and water.”

Not convinced that a bottle of gel can really get your paws squeaky clean? Scott was also doubtful. “For a long time, I was a skeptic about them, but as evidence started to emerge on the effectiveness of these alcohol-based hand sanitizers, I’m sold on them,” he says. Take the 1991 study cited by the WHO in their guidelines on hand hygiene in health care that found that alcohol-based hand sanitizer was more effective than plain soap and water in preventing the transmission of bacteria from the hands of healthcare workers to patients’ catheters.

2. Hand sanitizers don’t cause super-bacteria

The idea that frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers will make bacteria resistant to treatment is bogus, Scott stresses. “The [way sanitizers work] is based on cell-membrane disruption by the alcohol, and that’s not something that bacterium can acquire resistance to. It’s not physically possible,” he says.

3. Hand sanitizers are easier on your skin than soap and water

“Most of the modern hand sanitizers have emollients in them that will actually improve skin condition,” says Scott. While that may seem counterintuitive because effective sanitizers contain so much alcohol, several studies have proven that these formulas are actually better for skin than soap. For instance, a 2004 study compared the effectiveness of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and antibacterial soap for nurses who worked in neonatal intensive care units in New York. The study found that while nurses were using the hand sanitizer, their skin condition was much better than when they used the antibacterial soap to clean their hands.

4. There’s a correct way to use hand sanitizers

To use a hand sanitizer effectively, make sure your hands are free of visible grime and dirt before applying the product. Then, apply a palm-full of product and rub vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds, making sure to distribute the sanitizer between your fingers, under your nails and jewelry, on your wrists and on the backs of each hand. When your hands are dry, you’re good to go.

Never rinse your hands with water or wipe them with a towel after using a hand sanitizer—this will counteract the effect of the product.


NHN May 2008
Another "Green Living"© writer warns of hand sanitizers

NHN Nov 2008
Early on use of immune boosting mineral fights cold and flu bug

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