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Millions of Americans use hand sanitizer every day believing they safely kill bacteria.
However, do we actually know how safe it is? Especially for pregnant women and small children? As mamas-to-be or moms with another baby on the way, it is imperative to know that using alcohol-based hand sanitizer as a soap and water alternative may be unsafe.
“These products provide a convenient alternative when handwashing with plain soap and water is unavailable, but it’s our responsibility to determine whether these products are safe and effective so that consumers can be confident when using them on themselves and their families multiple times a day,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an Agency News release.
Hand-sanitizing products such as towelettes, gels, and rubs that kill bacteria include alcohol, ethanol or ethyl alcohol that is used in 90 percent of these hand cleaners. However, it is two antimicrobials that might pose the largest damage: triclosan and triclocarban, which are commonly found in personal care products like soaps, toothpaste, and detergent, along with consumer products like mattresses, plastics, clothing, and toys.
These two chemicals are widely used to kill bacteria because they’re chemically stable, meaning they don’t break down easily. But although that is great for manufacturers, it may not be so great for you because these components don’t easily break down when they get into your body. What’s more, when you’re expecting, they could even end up traveling from your bloodstream into your baby’s through the placenta.
Preliminary research has shown that high exposure to endocrine disruptors (chemicals that can interfere with endocrine or hormonal systems) during pregnancy could have a potentially negative impact on the formation of a baby’s reproductive system that may not become apparent until many years after the exposure happens. What’s more, using these chemicals unnecessarily in products contributes to antimicrobial and antibiotic resistance, i.e., the ability of microbes like bacteria to resist the effects of antimicrobials altogether.
The best method of action is washing hands with soap and water. Not only it is less harsh for your own skin, but it is also less harmful for the baby as well. All-natural sanitizers and soaps are also better options than alcohol-based hand sanitizers and are available at a variety of drug stores and convenience stores with reputable brands, such as Burt’s Bees, available worldwide.
Especially with the added need for extra sanitation at the moment, resist the temptation to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead of washing your hands in the sink. Hand washing with soap is more effective, safer for you, and safer for your baby. If no soap and water are available, then consider using an all-natural hand sanitizer.