Picture this scenario, a woman is standing at her balcony seeing her child winding up her play at the garden and running home for evening snacks. She goes into the living room and notices that her child is soiled and dirtied with the dirt, mud and what not. Immediately she yells – “Look at how dirty your hands are. Take this sanitizer and clean them!” The child obviously does as she is instructed.
In these modern times, we usually refrain from getting up from our seat and going to the wash basin to wash hands. Instead, all we do now is just pop open the sanitizer bottle from our handbag or shelf and conveniently use it. We are of the opinion that a hand sanitizer is an equal alternative as a germ repellant to normal soaps, if not better.
Let’s take a look back at the days when people used normal soap and water. Were they prone to the umpteen number of diseases that we are today? The answer is a resounding NO! People used to think several times before using any chemical on themselves. They led a simple, yet mindful and meaningful life.
Today, with our progress technologically and economically, we should have become more sensible, wise and independent. On the contrary, we are more tech-dependent and callous. We see a T.V commercial and believe that we can become fair in seven days, wrinkle-free in 10 days and lose weight in another 20 odd days. This couldn’t be further away from the truth and these unthoughtful habits have been passed on to our children as well unknowingly.
Almost all of us are now so accustomed to using a hand sanitizer, that we have forgotten all about washing our hands with soap and water. However, we need to take a step back and think about the damage exposure to harsh chemicals is causing us. Apart from the fact that it’s got some antibacterial qualities, it’s hard to think of any other benefits it bestows upon us. Let’s take a look at how it damages our system –
Ingredient called Triclosan
Triclosan is an antibiotic compound that’s ever-present in almost all non-alcoholic sanitizers. Although these are effective against bacteria, prolonged use of this chemical can do serious damage. Our body gets used to the ingredient, which means we become less immune to it and thus, we also become less immune to bacterial diseases. So, being a chemical, Triclosan is doing more bad than good as our natural resistance is being lowered. Some endocrinology reports have even proved that Triclosan leads to hormonal disruptions by raising the testosterone levels resulting in early puberty in children! Worse still, it can also spur the growth of breast cancer cells!
Some children may accidentally swallow sanitizer which causes alcohol poisoning because alcohol is one of the main ingredients in most of the sanitizer brands (about 60%). Ethyl alcohol also causes shortness of breath, dizziness and stomach pain amongst several other side-effects.
Antimicrobial sanitizers kill only bacteria
Yes, this is surprising but true. These sanitizers kill only the bacteria (unfortunately, this includes the good ones as well) but do absolutely nothing to the variety of fungus and viruses. This basically means that it makes zero sense to use it when there is a viral infection going on like the common cold, flu, conjunctivitis etc.
Antibacterial sanitizers kill the good bacteria
Our palms contain good as well as bad bacteria. The good bacteria are actually required for our body as it helps in fighting against the bad bacteria. They also help in replenishing the bacterial flora in our intestines that prevents loose motions. Sanitizers, unfortunately, get rid of the good bacteria thus doing more harm than good.
If your sanitizer is scented, then you can rest assured that it’s filled with an array of toxic chemicals in it just so that it smells good. Synthetic fragrances contain phthalates which disrupt hormonal balances while even altering genital development.
Many hand sanitizers contain a peculiar chemical called parabens which are also present in most of the cosmetic products, skin care, and hair care products. They’ve been linked to possible dangerous health issues ranging from cancer, skin irritation, fungal infection, neurotoxicity, endocrinal disorders, etc. We must always make it a point to consciously avoid labels that include any of these common parabens: ethylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben or propylparaben.
Dryness of hands
Using a hand sanitizer is a common reason that people are afflicted with Hand Dermatitis. This basically means that the alcohol content present in it plays an active role in getting rid of the Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF), thus making the skin very flaky and dry. If this can affect adults so drastically, just imagine what it can do to a child!
Now that we have gathered enough proof along with imparting wisdom about the harmful effects of hand sanitizers, it’s high time we realized that it’s actually not a boon but a bane. Starting now, we must make it a point to stop using it as and when we like it. Certain “fads” are better left alone and can lead to epidemics. Yes, we can use it at times of emergencies where one doesn’t have access to a normal soap and water. But it’s safe to say, we definitely can’t replace soaps with sanitizers! So let’s get back to our old school basics and embrace the safer ways of being hygienic – soap and water.