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If you use hand sanitizer regularly to clean your hands or protect from germs, think again. 6 hidden dangers of hand sanitizers you don't know about. 

6 Dangers of Hand Sanitizers & Safer Options To Reach For Instead

Inside This Post: If you use hand sanitizer regularly to clean your hands or protect from germs, think again. 6 hidden dangers of hand sanitizers you don’t know about. 

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The Dangers of Hand Sanitizers 

You might carry it in your pocket and see it in bathrooms. Its near the carts at the supermarket, at schools and virtually every type of doctors office from family practice, dentist to veterinarian.

It’s hand sanitizer and comes in gel, foam and lotion form making it easy to whip out in place of washing your hands and as a convenient alternatives if you aren’t near a bathroom, to do so.

If you’re a hand sanitizer toting person who may or may not have a container in your purse, affixed to your kid’s backpack, and another one in the car… listen up, because there are some hidden dangers, as well as harmful chemicals in hand sanitizer that may have you rethinking your use.

1. Antibacterial Resistance 

We use hand sanitizers designed to kill microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, but what are the potential dangers of frequent use to us?

What happens when your body builds up a resistance to antibiotics and to bacteria?

Non-alcohol based hand sanitizers contain an antibiotic compound called triclosan or triclocarban. This chemical is an antibacterial, meaning it contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

It can be found in antiseptic soap, and even toothpaste and products with triclosan are labels antibacterial, antimicrobial, or antiseptic.

The problem is when you use hand sanitizer often, you build up a resistance to antibiotics, and in turn resistance to bacteria. You are actually lowering your resistance to diseases by killing the good bacteria on your hands.

In a 2011 study by the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that health care employees who were most likely to use hand sanitizers over soap and water for routine hand washing were nearly six times more at risk for outbreaks of norovirus, which causes most cases of acute gastroenteritis.

One 2009 study found that typical soap, when scrubbed on properly, is just as good at killing potentially infectious bacteria and viruses. Stick to the soap and water and you’ll be in better hands.


2. You’re Killing Good Microbiome & Comprising Your Immune Health 

While you can’t see any of them, millions of bacteria on your hands, skin and of course, inside your gut.

It’s called microbiome.

Science tells us, it’s the colonies of bacteria we have on and in our bodies, among other things, that keep our body healthy and functionally properly.

When we regularly use hand sanitizer, we kill off nearly all microbe on our hands and skin – both the good and bad kinds and this isn’t good news for you.

The problem is that when we kill of potentially good, or beneficial bacteria, it lowers your resistance to illness and disease because you’re eliminating what helps your body fight off bad bacteria.

When you have a weakened immune system, this makes it more difficult or even impossible to treat without intervention.

Researchers at University of Michigan School of Public Health found that the chemical triclosan has the potential to negatively affect immune function. In the same study, children and teens exposed to higher levels of triclosan were more likely to be diagnosed with hay fever and other allergies.

If you use hand sanitizer regularly to clean your hands or protect from germs, think again. 6 hidden dangers of hand sanitizers you don't know about. 

3. Increased Exposure to BPA 

According to this paper published in JAMA, they found that people who use hand sanitizers have elevated levels of the chemical BPA in their urine and blood.

They also found that individuals who used hand sanitizer and then handled receipts, had an increase to the absorption of BPA into the body by a factor of 100 or more. 

That’s because the chemicals in hand sanitizers (as well as other cosmetic products like lotions) make the skin more permeable to substances you handle, including BPA which is found on receipts and plastics.

Researchers warn about the potential health effects of BPA, a known endocrine disruptor, which interferes with the function of hormones like estrogen.

They found that those who used the Purell absorbed tens of times more BPA from the receipts than those without.

In another experiment, subjects used Purell before handling receipts and subsequently eating french fries, as the scientists observed happening in real-world fast-food joints. This also greatly increased blood serum and urine levels of BPA.


4. The First Ingredient (Alcohol) Can Potentially Poison You  

Hand sanitizer often lists alcohol as the first ingredient, such as ethyl alcohol. It’s an active ingredient, working as an antiseptic.

Alcohol, the germ-killing agent in alcohol-based hand sanitizers evaporates within seconds after you apply it to your hands, but worse yet, some of the alcohol is absorbed through the skin and into your bloodstream.

Research shows it can also irritate eyes, the nose and skin.

That’s not all.

In March of 2012, six California teenagers were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning from drinking hand sanitizer, making it the latest in a string of household products used to induce intoxication, ABC News reported. A few squirts of hand sanitizer could equal a couple of shots of hard liquor.


5. Tricolsan is a Hormone Disruptor

Another effect of putting triclosan on your skin are the potential hormone problems it can cause.

FDA shows research that triclosan may lead to hormonal disruptions and cause bacteria to adapt to its antimicrobial properties, which create more antibiotic-resistant strains.

Animal studies have shown that the compound could change the way hormones work in the body, raising concerns and warranting further investigation to better understand how they might affect humans.

If you use hand sanitizer regularly to clean your hands or protect from germs, think again. 6 hidden dangers of hand sanitizers you don't know about. 

6. Hand Sanitizer is Loaded with Toxic Chemicals

Hand sanitizers are loaded with toxic chemicals. Here are the chemicals you rub on your hands and skin each time you use it.

  • Ethanyl Alcohol – This germ-killing agent in alcohol-based hand sanitizers evaporates within seconds after applying, but some is still absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. Research shows it can be an irritant to eyes, nose, and skin.
  • Aminomethyl Propanol – This clear, colorless liquid is added to skincare products to make their pH levels less acidic and more alkaline. Research suggests it can irritate skin, eyes, and lungs. It is also considered an environmental contaminant.
  • Glycerin – Found in many skincare products, toothpastes, and even processed foods, glycerin is made of animal or vegetable fats. It has a low toxicity level but may irritate your skin.
  • Parabens – Parabens, are used to preserve other ingredients and extend a product’s shelf life.
  • Isopropyl Myristate – This oil is derived from animal or plant fat and used as a binding agent. It has a low toxicity level but may cause skin, eye, and lung irritation.
  • Propylene Glycol  – Various government agencies classify this chemical (which can be petroleum or plant-based) as nontoxic, but some research indicates it may be a skin, eye, and lung irritant. It is widely used in cosmetics, antifreeze, and processed foods.
  • Tocopheryl Acetate – Animal testing has found this chemical compound, which consists of acetic acid and tocopherol (vitamin E), causes tumor formation at high doses. There is strong evidence that it is a human-skin toxicant or allergen.
  • Fragrance – Loosely regulated in the United States, “fragrance” might contain any number of 3,000-plus chemicals. Companies aren’t required to disclose the ingredients that make up their scents, and when you see a label, you’re likely only seeing a 1/3rd or less of the actual ingredients. Often, “fragrance” is made from dozens of compounds, including those found to be highly toxic (such as phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors that mimic hormones and alter genital development.)


Swap Your Toxic Hand Sanitizer for a Safer Version

I’m a nut about what I put on and in my babies’ bodies so I have done my homework when it comes to picking a safe hand sanitizer. Here is what we use, but have also tried.


To gain a full understanding of what harsh toxins are lurking in your home and what happens when you breathe, eat, touch or smell them,  Download Your Free Starter Guide to Environmental Toxins Hiding in Your Home

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The Comments

  • Jim S Smith
    March 15, 2020

    Ethanol (otherwise known as “Ethyl Alcohol” or Grain Alcohol) is not Anti-Microbial in the sense of killing it. It helps to remove pathogens by breaking their “hold” or adherence to surfaces (like your skin). The common alcohol used in various household “sanitizers” is called SD-40, which is a “denatured” mixture with several other (more-toxic) alcohols.

    Propylene Glycol, as well as Ethylene Glycol are the chief ingredients to engine coolant! They are BOTH very toxic when ingested. I have personally witnessed several occasions where wildlife and other domestic animals have BEEN POISONED FROM INGESTION OF GLYCOLS! These federal agencies which have classed Propylene Glycol as “non-toxic” are FULL OF IT!

    Soaps have one primary purpose: To loosen and remove oils and the dirt which adheres to oils and greases. Soap was NOT designed to kill any microbes. It was designed to remove them, so that they could be flushed away with WARM water. Therefore, the typical proper hand-washing is about getting as much of the soapy water mixture to as many areas of the hands, so as to “flush out” any residual microbes and dirt from your hands. (Hopefully, this includes under the finger nails too!)

    Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate is used too much alone, and is artificially manufactured. Because Vitamin “E” is a mixture of Alpha-, Beta-, and Gamma-Tocopherols, all of these isomers make up what are supposed to occur naturally in a specific ration of the composition of Vitamin E. Alpha-Tocopherol and its Acetate salt needs to be accompanied by the other isomeric forms in order to be useful. Plus, the artificially-manufactured Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate is often contaminated with left-over chemical residuals (like Cyclo-Hexanes, etc). THESE residuals are often found to be highly carcinogenic. Therefore, resultant skin irritations are more-often attributed to the residual chemicals from manufacturing.

    Most of our commercially sold sanitizers, contain all artificially-derived/manufactured chemicals, and therefore – also most-likely contain sufficiently-high levels of residual processing chemicals. They are in fact POISONS!

    Ethyl Alcohol has less of the toxicity than all the other artificial “alcohols” that are used. If it was truly as toxic, then WHY are we drinking it in beverages that have been produced for centuries. (Over-dosing on Ethanol is very toxic, yes.) I would use something like cheap Vodka as part of the basis of a good, home-made sanitizer – together with some natural oils like from Clove, Rosemary, Basil, Peppermint, Lavender, etc. in a base of natural/clear Aloe Vera gel.


    This is a very good article.