Consider Using Nontoxic Hand Sanitizers

Did you know most hand sanitizers contain a greater percentage of alcohol than found in hard liquor? Or that this product commonly use on and around children in child care settings is actually highly flammable? This article details why soap and warm water is much safer bet when children need a quick clean-up.

The best way to prevent transmission of germs in your center is to frequently have staff and children wash their hands with soap and warm water.  Hand sanitizers should not be used instead of water washing for a variety of reasons.

First and probably foremost is that commercial hand sanitizers contain a myriad of chemicals including the antibacterial Triclosan and Troclocarban. (Click here to download a handout on the dangers of using Triclosan.) These chemicals are known to be endocrine disrupters and have been implicated in the early onset of puberty.

Hand sanitizers also are composed of high amounts of alcohol, usually about 60%. Hard liquor contains 40% alcohol.  Not only is alcohol toxic, it is also extremely drying to the skin and highly flammable.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are classified as Class I Flammable Liquid substances, which means they have a flash point of less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Hand sanitizer vapors can be flammable.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has specific guidelines regarding the storage and use of flammable liquids including hand sanitizer.  OSHA requires employees who use alcohol-based hand sanitizers and any other hazardous chemicals to keep Material Safety Data Sheets regarding the proper procedures for handling the substance.  These sheets can be obtained from the product manufacturer.

Proper procedures for the use of alcohol-based sanitizers includes supervising children at all times when using the product. Never place dispensers in the hallways, corridors, or exit or open areas that lead to them, because the sanitizers are highly flammable.

If you must use hand sanitizer, you can now buy a healthier product such as Clean Well or All Terrain that are naturally antibacterial, biodegradable and alcohol free.

You can even make your own healthy and inexpensive hand sanitizer with a few ingredients obtained from your local health food store or online.  In 1 cup of pure aloe vera gel, add 1-2 teaspoons of witch hazel, 3-4 drops of tea tree oil and 3-4 drops of peppermint essential oil. Witch hazel, tea tree and peppermint are all natural antiseptics and astringents, which make them great for killing germs as well as healing small wounds and cuts. The aloe vera gel will help soothe and keep the skin from drying out.  Store in a container and use as you would hand sanitizer.