Are hand sanitizers as safe as we think?

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7 Jul 2016 - General

As health care professionals who are frequently exposed to microbes in the clinical setting, hand sanitizers are among our best friends at work. Many of us even use hand sanitizers almost every hour, especially due to contact with various patients. The FDA, however, has started questioning the safety of these products (see link below). As we know, absorption can occur through the skin to a certain degree, and the active antibacterial ingredients for hand sanitizers, such as ethyl alcohol, triclosan, and benzalkonium chloride may cause potential harm. This is also especially a concern for pregnant women and children. What do you think about this issue, and what is your opinion regarding the use of hand sanitizers?


Interesting! I've always been a fan of hand sanitizers and now I'm worried. Hand washing, albeit may take more time to clean our hands, is still the best way to do it. I just checked this article from MIMS which confirms my hunch. It's supported by the US Centers for Disease Control Prevention, so there. Here the link in case you want to read whole write-up:
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Thank you for the additional info and the links, Theekshana, Indira and Marinelle. I checked them out and am learning more about this. Hopefully the FDA and other health agencies can really establish what is safe and what isn't rregarding our hand sanitizers. Also, hopefully more studies can be done to establish this. I’m glad that the study from Marinelle’s link cleared up the issue for reproductive and developmental risks, as I was concerned about this since I myself am pregnant. The other...
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Hi Lianne! Interesting topic! I came across this journal, published last Oct 2015, wherein researchers evaluated the developmental toxicity of ethanol-based hand sanitizers. They detected that healthcare workers who use hand sanitizers generate low ethanol blood levels. This was presumably absorbed via topic use and inhalation of its volatile contents. The researchers concluded that since the blood ethanol concentrations are very low, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are safe for their intended use...
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Just in addition to your post, hand sanitizers are being used largely not only in hospitals, but also in areas which require prevention of infection including day care centres and also home care treatments. Ethanol has shown stimulatory effects on skin keratinocytes(on intact skin) while it has adverse effects on damaged skin. A very low hand sanitizer toxicity has been observed in population with an aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) deficiency (higher in Asians) which causes skin irritation to al...
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Hand sanitizers that are used in my ward are just dispensers refilled with isopropyl alcohol. The safety of the use of hand sanitizers is questionable as the articles discusses, but the use of alcohol that is meant to clean surgical instruments and surfaces to clean the hands is obviously way more harmful than using commercially prepared hand sanitizers. Not only for the one person who's using it, but also the patient we're examining can be harmed due to the low quality of hand sanitizer...
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