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Exposure to Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers Does More Harm Than Good

One of the essential requirements for healthy living is ensuring hand hygiene to avoid the spread of germs. As a result, alcohol-based hand sanitizers that kill bacteria, fungi and some viruses have become popular. From health care providers to restaurant workers, it is used widely by all class of people, including children. It is used by millions of Americans as an effective and inexpensive means of reducing microorganisms. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that hand sanitizers should only be used when soap and clean water are not available and it should contain at least 60 percent alcohol.

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a rule banning the use of certain antiseptic wash products containing one or more of the 19 specific active ingredients, such as triclosan and triclocarban. Such a decision was taken in the absence of demonstration by the manufacturers on the safety and effectiveness of hand sanitizers in the daily life.

These active ingredients in antibacterial soaps, body washes and hand sanitizers have been long suspected to cause health complications, particularly among pregnant women and children. Due to the ban on some active ingredients used in hand sanitizers, there is a growing public concern about the health risks due to these chemicals, especially among younger children. These chemicals have the potential to cause bacterial resistance or harmonal effects.

Consequences of fancy hand sanitizers on kids

The volume of ethanol or isopropyl alcohol in hand sanitizers can range from 60 percent to 95 percent. In addition, other ingredients in sanitizers include fragrances that may be appealing to children.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published in March 2017 has identified the cases of apnea, acidosis and coma among children who ingested alcohol-based hand sanitizers. This raises questions about the safety of such hand sanitizers. Intentional and unintentional exposure to the harmful chemicals of hand sanitizers through ingestion, inhalation, and dermal and ocular exposures can pose a major risk to younger children.

MMWR highlights:

· Ingestion of both alcohol-based and nonalcoholic hand sanitizers was the most common exposure among children in the age group 12 and below. However, alcohol-based hand sanitizers were linked to more severe health complications.

· Young children, including infants, are more susceptible to intoxication from sanitizers compared to older children and teens. Due to the lesser reserve of glycogen in their liver, they also stand the chance of developing hypoglycemia.

· Ocular exposure to sanitizers is more prevalent in older children than in younger children (24.8 percent vs. 3 percent).

Hand sanitizers and common health complications

According to the MMWR, 8,219 children, including 7,703 children who ingested alcohol-based sanitizers and 516 who ingested nonalcoholic products, reported at least one symptom. Some of the common symptoms experienced by these children are ocular irritation (31.4 percent), vomiting (22.8 percent), conjunctivitis (10.5 percent), oral irritation (9.5 percent), etc. In addition, extremely rare cases of coma, seizures, hypoglycemia, metabolic acidosis and respiratory depression were also reported.

Since some schools may mandate students to equip themselves with hand sanitizers, many children stand the increased risk of being exposed to their chemicals. Similarly, a study carried out to assess the reports of alcohol poisoning in Texas poison centers between 2000 and 2013 found that out of the 385 adolescent participants who reported to ingesting hand sanitizers, 35 percent had done so on the school grounds.

Help at hand

Between 2005 and 2009, the annual rate of intentional exposure to hand sanitizers increased 0.32 per 1 million per year. Moreover, there were 70,669 cases of exposure in children aged 12 or below. The alcohol-based hand sanitizer has the potential to cause adverse health consequences, especially among younger children.

Although there has been no report of death because of exposure to alcohol-based sanitizers, parents, guardians, caregivers and health care providers need to be aware of the risks. Additionally, parental and teacher supervision is required among school students to discourage abuse of such products that are easily available and accessible.

If you or your loved one tends to misuse hand sanitizer owing to the alcohol in it or is dependent on alcohol or any other substance, it is time to undergo detoxification. The Rapid Detox Helpline can assist you in locating the best rapid detox centers that specialize in evidence-based intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866–403–5591 to know more about the detox treatment centers.

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