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The Disadvantages of Hand Sanitizers

By Shelley Moore ; Updated July 18, 2017

Hand sanitizers are available in liquid form as well as towelettes and wipes. People use hand sanitizers to eliminate illness-causing germs and in situations where using soap and water is inconvenient, such as wilderness camping. The Outdoor Action Program at Princeton University notes that alcohol-based sanitizers kill up to 99 percent of bacteria and clean hands in only a few seconds. Hand sanitizers also have some important disadvantages.

Cleaning Effectiveness

Using hand sanitizers does not replace hand washing, as explained by the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). If hands have visible dirt, these sanitizers don't remove it very well. When hand sanitizers are used in schools or other facilities, the budget still must include money to buy soap. Additionally, consumer antiseptic use has not been demonstrated as being more effective than soap and water in any place other than a health care setting.

Endocrine System Disruption

Antibacterial hand sanitizers may contain triclosan or triclocarban, agents that kill both bad and beneficial bacteria. These chemicals can act as endocrine disruptors and may be a factor in early puberty, as noted by White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. A study published in the March 2008 issue of "Endocrinology" indicated that triclocarban enhances testosterone action.

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Danger to Children

Most liquid hand sanitizers contain a large amount of ethyl or isopropyl alcohol, and must be kept out of reach of children unless adults are supervising. Snopes.com has confirmed reports of children needing medical treatment after consuming small amounts of these sanitizers.

Flammable Products

Because of the high alcohol content of most hand sanitizing liquids, these substances are flammable, according to University of Rochester Facilities and Services. People must keep these sanitizers away from open flame, including candles and gas appliances. Hand sanitizers also should not be used when cooking on a barbecue grill. The flammable nature of hand sanitizers also makes them hazardous waste, and they must be disposed of and stored according to Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) guidelines.

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