By and large, people live in a very germ-conscious world. From the annual threat of the flu to the horrible outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa, people are very aware of the fact that there are many microorganisms out there that can cause illness and disease – and also that there are ways to help minimize the risk of infection. That is why people get flu shots, take extra Vitamin C or Echinacea capsules and avoid contact with people whom they know to be ill.
This germ-consciousness also explains the rise in popularity of hand sanitizers in recent years. Once mainly in hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities, these sanitizers are now in the majority of American homes. But while the idea behind sanitizers – that hands should be clean because they are a conduit for germs – is a good one, there are nonetheless some hidden dangers people should be aware of.
Makes the body more vulnerable to BPA
Many plastic products people buy in the store nowadays contain labels declaring them to be “BPA Free”. This is because the general public is beginning to understand that this chemical, once commonly used in plastics, can cause long-term health complications such as damage to the nerves and the reproductive
system. And it has been shown that triclosan, a chemical compound found in hand sanitizers, makes it easier for the body to absorb BPA in larger amounts.
Exposes consumers to phthalates and parabens
Phthalates and parabens are chemicals which are known to disrupt the endocrine system and lead to problems with sexual/reproductive development, obesity and fertility problems. Most – though not all –hand sanitizers contain one or both of these chemicals, however.
Runs the risk of accidental poisoning
Because of public concern about triclosan, many hand sanitizers have become based on alcohol to kill of germs instead. Generally, this is an improvement because alcohol is a very effective sanitizer but lacks the health risks of the triclosan. However, these sanitizers, if accidentally ingested by children, can run the risk of alcohol poisoning.
Can lead to bacterial resistance
Most people have probably heard something about the rise of “superbugs”, resistant bacteria that does not yield even to strong antibiotic treatment. Unfortunately, it may well be that the wide-spread use of sanitizers can cause bacterial resistance and actually cause more problems with infection than they are trying to solve.
Promotes allergy development
Allergies can be a huge problem for children – especially for those who already have asthma. And it seems as if the problem with childhood allergies is only getting worse. One of the reasons for that may be widespread use of hand sanitizers. A recent study has found that children exposed to triclosan were more
likely to develop environmental allergies.
In short, while hand sanitizers sound like a good idea, they can actually cause from problems than they solve, not only causing specific and serious human health problems but actually making infections more serious due to promoting bacterial resistance.
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