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Hand sanitizer? Antibacterial soap? Good or bad?

By Guide August 12, 2014 - 5:08pm
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There's been so much conflicting evidence lately about the chemicals in hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap. What are we suppose to believe? I have two school aged children, so this is very important to the health of my growing family. Thanks!

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Kristin -

My sister is all about hand sanitizer, but I have always heard that the more you use, the less it works. I stick with washing my hands with water and soap, but if in a public place (with no access to a sink), I will use hand sanitizer. I think of hand sanitizer as a to-go item, not always using it, but it's handy.


August 15, 2014 - 8:15am

Hello Kristin,

That is a very good question and one that many parents are asking themselves.

Just last evening there was a report on New York City news program about the efficacy of hand sanitizers. Is sending our children off to school with a hand sanitizer packed in their backpacks really such a good thing?

Not really. Good hand washing with warm water and soap is more effective in eliminating germs and preventing the spread of illnesses.

'The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's best to have children wash their hands with soap and water. If a sink is not available, hand sanitizers with an alcohol concentration of at least 60% are a good second choice." from the chart on CNN with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Kristin, as you and our readers may already know, the main ingredient in most hand sanitizing products is isopropanol, which is alcohol. Common non-alcohol, rinse-free hand sanitizers use either small concentrations of the nitrogenous cationic surface-acting agent benzalkonium chloride.

The Atlantic reported "Antimicrobial chemicals, intended to kill bacteria and other microorganisms, are commonly found in not just soaps, but all kinds of products—toothpaste, cosmetics, and plastics among them. There is evidence that the chemicals aren’t always effective, and may even be harmful, and their ubiquity means people are often continually exposed to them.

One such chemical, triclosan, has previously been found in many human bodily fluids. New research found traces of triclosan, triclocarban, and butyl paraben in the urine of pregnant women, and the cord blood of newborn infants."


August 13, 2014 - 8:17am
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