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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Purdue University expert: Alcohol hand sanitizers NOT effective

By Chuck Poulsen

The Clean Hands Police are shaking their little sanitized fists at us and demanding that we soak our hands in some gooey alcohol-based gel that smells like gardenias.
The Clean Hands Police are a subsection of the Healthy Eating Gestapo, which operates under the Ministry of Environmental Salvation and Self-righteousness (MESS).
The mission statement for MESS is right to the point: “Do what we say with your life, or else. Hallelujah.”
The clean hands hysteria – and once started, don’t think it will ever go away – is reminiscent of the people who built bomb shelters in the late ‘50s and ended up using them as wine cellars.
School District 23 has six web pages on swine flu, including information on how parents and children might deal with anxiety produced by fear of the flu. Halloween won’t be nearly as scary.
The Clean Hands Police have already learned from MESS how to humiliate the unfaithful.
This was shown by U.S. Secretary of Health, Kathleen Sebelius, who was freaked out by NBC reporter Chuck Todd because he covered a sneeze with his hand.
“What’s that about?” Sebelius shrieked twice, as if Todd had just accidentally detonated a nuclear weapon.
Then she showed Todd how to cover his sneeze with the crux of her elbow. Swinging her arm away after the sneeze, she looked like Count Dracula whipping out his cape.
Said Sebelius: “Who’s got some Purell? Give it to Mr Todd right away.”
Purcell has about 70 per cent alcohol so you could forgive Todd for not throwing back a shot after absorbing the hellfire scolding from Sebelius.
The amount of alcohol in hand cleaners is something the Clean Hands Police have not thought through.
Reports are coming in from emergency rooms about children with alcohol poisoning after drinking the sweet-smelling sanitizers. With parents handing Purell out to their kids by the millions, we can bet some will give it a taste no matter if they are told not too. I can see teenagers purposely drinking the stuff for an alcoholic buzz.

A Purdue University professor who teaches sanitation practices for food service workers says alcohol hand sanitizers might not even work very well.

“Research shows that they do not significantly reduce the overall amount of bacteria on the hands, and in some cases they may even increase it,” says Barbara Almanza, associate professor at Purdue.

Almanza says the typical alcohol hand sanitizer,  strips the skin of the outer layer of oil, which normally prevents resident bacteria from coming to the surface.

“Generally, this resident flora is not the type that will make us sick,” Almanza says, “but the assumption is that when you have an increase in overall bacteria, the chances are better that a disease-causing strain will be present.”
Yet the manufacturers of these alcohol products can continue to claim that their sanitizers are up to 99.9 percent effective in killing germs because they were tested on inanimate surfaces rather than human hands.

“The physiological complexity of human skin makes it very difficult to use for testing of this nature,” Almanza says. “The most clear and consistent results were going to come from using surfaces for which the variables can be controlled, and that’s just not real life. Real life is not neat and tidy.”

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