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Monday, August 25, 2008

Indiana Dept of Education: Out of Touch when it comes to hand sanitizers?

Very disheartening to notice a recent posting in a national listserve for school nurses, and that as the school year begins, some school adminstrators are actually facilitating the promotion of alcohol-based hand sanitizers--and pointing influencers to marketing collateral such as "Scrub Club", which incorporates subliminal product marketing 'sponsored' by manufacturers of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (i.e. Purell), despite the fact that health care experts are repeatedly warning about the dangers of alcohol-based hand sanitizer products, especially within school settings.

Last year, in the midst of the MRSA outbreak taking place in schools across the country, the news media repeatedly focused on the dangers of alcohol-based products and the misconceptions about their appropriateness within school settings. Contrary to popular belief, the CDC only recommends washing with soap (non-antimicrobial) and water, and actually cautions against the use of alcohol-based rubs and gels within specific settings and circumstances, and a senior spokesperson from CDC (Kathleen Stewart) has repeatedly stated that "too many people are mis-reading, or not completely reading the CDC hand hygiene recommendation (which is now more than 12 years old and was intended exclusively for hospital environments)..."

By now, everyone knows that alcohol-based sanitizers have virtually no effectiveness when applied to dirty hands, they certainly can't be applied to scrapes/abrasions, and prolonged use cause dry/irritated skin--and actually destroys protective skin cells.

And, we've all read stories about little kids inadvertently licking this products off of their hands (perhaps because of the interesting fragrances that are imbedded in the products), and subsequently getting sick from ingesting the alcohol. A search on using the key words "hand sanitizer" will also illustrate how inventive our teens can be when seeing how they are re-purposing alcohol-based sanitizers. For those that can't log on to YouTube from school computers, think "libation" and "accellerant" and you can easily envision how easily these products can be abused.

And by now, many have become aware that there are more than several alcohol-free, rinse free hand sanitizer products that use benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient--which is the same active used in a variety of antiseptics (Bactine, BandAid foaming antiseptic, etc.), and are otherwise proven to be equally, if not more effective with respect to killing the variety of commonly-transmitted germs, bacteria and viruses, including MRSA, and other forms of staph. These products can be applied to cuts/abrasions, BAC has extended persistency, and the better products contain no fragrances or dyes.

From the perspective of health care product safety, wisdom suggests that too much of anything is no good, but if a choice is to be made insofar as hand sanitizer products, why would anyone recommend applying a flammable and toxic product to our kids hands, when there are products that can kill germs without killing the skin cells that are intended to protect against germs and bacteria?

Lets get smart and keep everyone safe and healthy.

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