Why hand sanitiser might be harmful to health

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We use hand sanitisers so often, without being aware of what they contain that may be harmful to our health...

Singaporeans love their hand sanitiser. That little bottle is a must-have item in any mum's handbag and we even pop it in our kids' schoolbags, with stern warnings to use its contents to sanitise their hands often.

Of course, we use hand sanitiser as an easy way of cleaning our hands and importantly, those of our kids when soap and water is not readily available.

But what if we told you that the use of hand sanitiser may actually be bad for your health?

Why hand sanitiser might be harmful

Endocrine disruptors are "chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife."

Bisphenol-A, or BPA as we know it, is an endocrine disruptor, and you may know of it as being used in some plastics and food containers.

But did you know that BPA is also often found in the thermal paper that is often used to make receipts, bus tickets and train tickets? This is because the chemical can assist in binding dyes to the paper, making the printing more visible, according to a Forbes article.

In fact, according to a paper published in JAMA, people who handle receipts have elevated levels of BPA in their urine and blood.

This is where the potential danger of hand sanitiser comes into the picture. Research published in the journal PLOS ONE shows that BPA is absorbed more rapidly and extensively when people use hand sanitiser before handling paper receipts.

The authors explain that this is because many hand sanitisers "contain mixtures of dermal penetration enhancing chemicals that can increase by up to 100 fold the dermal absorption of lipophilic compounds such as BPA."

In simpler terms, hand sanitiser "opens up your skin to allow BPA to get right in,” says Laura Vandenberg, who studies endocrine disruptors at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

But that's not all that's not so good about hand sanitisers. Some of them also contain triclosan, which, according to research published in Microb Drug Resist, not only kills bad bacteria, but also the good bacteria on our skin.

The study authors caution that "thus, widespread use of triclosan may represent a potential public health risk in regard to development of antibacterial-resistant bacteria."

What's more, triclosan may be linked to "liver and inhalation toxicity, and low levels of triclosan may disrupt thyroid function", says US-based environmental watchdog Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Mums, we understand that hand sanitiser is a useful product to keep in your handbag and your kids' schoolbags, for when you need to clean your hands on the go. The trick is not to use it excessively.

Also, there's nothing like good old soap and water to effectively clean your family's hand -- so use this old-fashioned yet effective method whenever possible.

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