Hand washing is an easy way to prevent infection. It only requires soap and water or an alcohol based hand sanitizer – a cleanser that doesn’t require water. As you touch people, surfaces and objects throughtout a day, you accumulate germs on your hands. As you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you can infect yourself with these germs. Frequent hand washing will minimize the amount of bacteria, viruses and other microbes you transfer into your body.

We know the routine for hand washing before eating or preparing food, treating wounds, giving medicine to a sick or injured person, and inserting or removing contact lenses. And we know to wash our hands after preparing food, especially raw meat, using the toilet or changing a diaper, touching a pet, pet leashes or waste, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hand. The list goes on.

To wash our hands, we know to wet our hands with running water, apply soap, lather well, rub our hands for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing all surfaces, under nails, between fingers and the backs of hands. Then we rinse and dry with a towel or an air dryer. We even know to use our elbow to turn off the faucet. [1]

There are times when using water is not an option. This is when we pull out the hand sanitizer bottle. Alcohol-based sanitizers should have at least 60% alcohol.  Pour enough sanitizer into the palm of your hand to coat all surfaces of your hands. Rub until the sanitizer has evaporated. [2]

Over the past few years, antiseptic washes have come under the scrutiny of the Federal Food and Drug Administration.  Instead of alcohol, some hand sanitizers contain quaternary ammonium compounds (like triclosan and triclocarban) to reduce microbes. There are also “natural ingredient” hand sanitizers, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC) only recommends alcohol-based sanitizers.

After several years of research and review, five dangers have been revealed:

  1. Toxic chemicals
    a. ingredients in secret scents – components not required to be revealed
    b. phthalates – endocrine disrupters – mimic hormones and alter genital development
    c. parabens – preservative – extends shelf life but has been found in breast tumors
  2. Weaker immune system – triclosan harms immune system
    a. more susceptible to allergies
    b. more vulnerable to toxic chemical Bisphenol A (found in plastics)
  3. Hormone disruption – triclosan causes bacteria to adapt to its antimicrobial properties – makes more antibiotic resistant strains
  4. Alcohol poisoning
    a. active ingredient is a type of alcohol – anti-microbial
    b. recommended: ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol or a mix 60%-95%
    c. a few squirts equal to a  couple shots of hard liquor
  5. Antibiotic resistance
    a. kills good bacteria which protect against bad ones
    b. healthcare workers using these were 6x’s more at risk for outbreaks of norovirus (causes acute gastroenteritis)
    c. bacterial resistance [3]

In September 2016, the Federal Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule establishing a list of 19 chemicals found in over-the-counter consumer antiseptic products intended for use in water are not generally recognized as safe and effective and are misbranded. [4] 
Betsy Jabs, DIYNatural.com, has suggested the following recipe for homemade hand sanitizer using essential oils.

Alternative Sanitizer Recipe –
Ingredients:

  • 5-10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 30 drops tea tree essential oil (this is a 0.5% concentration)
  • 1 TBS witch hazel extract or high-proof vodka
  • 8 oz. 100% pure aloe vera gel
  • 1/4 tsp Vitamin E oil (a natural preservative to increase shelf life)

Method:
Add essential oils and Vitamin E oil to a small glass bowl or container and swirl to mix. Add witch hazel or alcohol to the oils and swirl again. Combine this mixture with the aloe vera gel and mix well. Shake well before each use.
Transfer to small, clean squirt bottles. (Use colored bottles to keep down light exposure.)
Note:
• Lavender oil is used in this recipe to even out the strong scent from tea tree oil. Not a lavender fan? Use rosemary, sage, sandlewood or peppermint oil. New to essential oils? Be sure to patch test for allergic reaction before using this all over your hands. (1 drop of essential oil plus 1 TBS olive oil). Rub on inside  of elbow and cover with bandage. Check in 24 hours.
• Research has shown that tea tree oil is very effective in fighting MRSA infections.
• None of the 19 chemicals banned by the FDA are included in this recipe. [5]
• Cinnamon, orange, and clove oils also have anti-bacterial and anti-viral actions.[6]
• Hand sanitizers are recommended to have on hand in case of an emergency resulting in water outages. If you purchase sanitizers, be sure to check the ingredients and make sure they are made with alcohol.

References
1.   
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/hand-washing/art-20046253
2.   http://www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/over-counter-products/article/6-things-know-about-hand-sanitizers
3.  https://www.thestreet.com/story/12966410/1/5-hidden-dangers-of-hand-sanitizers.html
4.  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/09/06/2016-21337/safety-and-effectiveness-of-consumer-antiseptics-topical-antimicrobial-drug-products-for
5.  https://www.diynatural.com/homemade-hand-sanitizer/
6.  http://thenaturalpenguin.com/2016/08/all-natural-homemade-hand-sanitizer-that-works/

Billie Nicholson, Editor
November 2016

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