As if 2020 hasn’t introduced enough danger into our lives, we are now learning that one of the products that is supposed to be helping us in our fight to stay healthy and Covid-free could be killing us.
Hand sanitizer use has skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic. In theory, hand sanitizer is a quick and easy way to rid your hands of whatever bacteria you may have touched while you’re outside and not available to use soap and water. It has become the go-to product to have at all point-of-sale areas, and many stores and places where people congregate now require that hand sanitizer be used before entering. And, the economics prove that sales of hand sanitizer are at an all-time high. Sales of hand sanitizer have increased by almost 12% since the beginning of 2020, and many economic forecasters say that we should expect an increase in the market share of hand sanitizers and other consumer hygiene products over the next 5-10 years.
Last week, the FDA announced that it had expanded the list of banned hand sanitizers to 75 across the country. These hand sanitizers have been banned from public use because they have tested positive for methanol. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is toxic when it is absorbed through the skin. It can become deadly if it is ingested. The FDA mandates that methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers. According to them, “Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk for methanol poisoning, young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute, are most at risk.”
The only hand sanitizer that is safe for public use are those that are produced with ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. For the layman, and those who don’t remember chemistry class from high school, ethyl alcohol is grain alcohol, the kind that you find in every alcoholic beverage. Isopropyl alcohol is what you would find in the rubbing alcohol in your medicine cabinet, or in most disinfectants. Ethyl alcohol is not toxic to consume, and can be used topically, or on your skin. Isopropyl alcohol should never be consumed, but it is not toxic to use as a topical medication.
The increase of toxic brands of hand sanitizer stem from an increase demand, and the greed of companies that want to capitalize on both the market share and the paranoia that comes with living in a pandemic. If you aren’t sure of the ingredients in a brand of hand sanitizer, do not use it. Instead, whenever possible, use soap and water to clean your hands. Soap and water are the best ways to keep your hands clean and your body safe from toxic agents. However, you can make your own hand sanitizer at home. The good people at BK Buddha offer up the following ingredients for a safe and effective homemade hand sanitizer:
Make Your Own Sanitizer
2 ounces Isopropyl Alcohol
1 ounce aloe gel
About 20 drops of the essential oil
That simple mixture is more than enough to keep your hands clean if you are out and about and not able to wash them. As we enter the final part of the summer and move into the fall, parents will be sure to stock up on products like hand sanitizer to put in their children’s book bags and school lockers. If you aren’t sure about what’s in the product, do not risk it. Making the at-home version can actually be something done with children. They will enjoy the process of mixing the ingredients and you will feel secure knowing that the sanitizer that they will be using to keep their hands clean is safe.
For more information on the brands of hand sanitizer banned from use, please visit: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-methanol