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Critical Considerations When Choosing a Hand Sanitizer: A Five Part Series

Part One: Alcohol vs. Non-Alcohol

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Your need for germ-killing protection you can trust is clear, what product you should use is not. 

Hand sanitizer is an essential part of the new normal. We all need it and we all buy it. For the most part, when shopping for a hand sanitizer you are going to choose something that looks like it works and is reasonably priced. That said, there are a lot of choices out there and you want to make purchasing decisions that are right for you, your family, or your business. 

Most importantly, it’s critical to be informed about the facts because choosing the wrong hand sanitizer or not being aware of its adverse effects can have dangerous consequences.

First, always check to see if the hand sanitizer you are considering purchasing or have already purchased is on the list of hand sanitizers authorized by Health Canada.

Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when choosing between Alcohol or Non-Alcohol Hand Sanitizer:

Toxicity

While hand sanitizers containing alcohol are often recommended for their germ-killing strength, there are other factors you should recognize, and alternatives that are also effective. Perhaps the first of which is that alcohol is a drug and presents potential toxicity upon ingestion which can cause acute alcohol poisoning, even in small amounts. Be cautious about using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with your children or if you are pregnant. Also, check to see if the hand sanitizer you currently have in your home contains methanol which can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and if swallowed can cause permanent blindness or death, if not treated.

Cancer Causing Agents

Ethyl alcohol has been identified as potentially carcinogenic and can cause the formation of tumors and life-threatening illnesses. While not banned or discontinued, some medical providers and suppliers have stopped using hand sanitizers with ethyl alcohol because of the associated cancer-causing risks. 

Flammability

You may be surprised to know that using alcohol-based hand sanitizer can turn fatal when exposed to an open flame. There have been news reports of people who have caught fire when using hand sanitizer containing alcohol in their kitchen. Testing has been conducted to confirm that there are significant risks associated with everything from smoking to barbequing with the substance on your hands. Know that it’s a Class 1 flammable liquid that is readily ignitable at room temperature and proven that you do not have to be particularly close to fire for it – or worse, you – to catch fire. 

Skin Irritation

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers strip away oil from your skin removing moisture causing dryness and could potentially crack the skin which can be irritating and/or allow germs to enter the body and cause infection. They can also lose protective qualities when the alcohol dries up. People who work in environments where they need to regularly reapply such as clinicians or grocery workers may prefer a non-alcoholic option that is gentler on the skin.

Alcohol Avoidance & Addictions

There are a variety of personal and religious beliefs where people choose to avoid or abstain from alcohol use or alcohol-based products. No matter the reasons, be empowered to make the right choice for you. With reference to addictions specifically, Statistics Canada has reported nearly 20% of Canadians aged 12 and older drink heavily. There is a large part of our population, in the millions, for which using an alcohol hand sanitizer is a vital consideration. For those avoiding alcohol or practicing alcohol abstinence, the scent of a potent alcohol hand sanitizer can a trigger continuation of substance abuse disorders.

Check back for Part Two of our Critical Considerations When Choosing a Hand Sanitizer Series coming soon: Gel vs. Foam.