National center for infection control professionals, healthcare experts, manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and consumers focused on best practices in hand hygiene and hand sanitizer products

Friday, November 20, 2009

Putting Booze into Kids Hands: Alcohol Hand Sanitizer

Story below is courtesy of the AlaskaDispatch reporter Jill Burke

Purell markets itself as ‘Mother Nature's disinfectant'. But while they kill germs, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are apparently no match for some aspects of human nature. Curiosity and compulsion have led some people, including children, to sniff or drink the cleansing goo for a cheap high.

"The best way to drink hand sanitizer is straight, like whiskey, and down it ‘like a shot,'" a 15-year-old student in Toronto recently told Maclean's magazine. "Undiluted, the alcohol-based liquid tastes a little like ‘vodka and bug spray,'" Maclean's reported.

At 62 percent ethyl alcohol, Purell is more than 120 proof -- the equivalent of a strong rum or whiskey. To effectively kill germs, alcohol content must be at least 60 percent; stronger hand sanitizers may contain as much as 85 percent.

Yet for addicts desperate for an alcohol fix, hand sanitizer is accessible, cheap, and gets the job done. And its abuse is something that crosses state and national boundaries.

In the village of Selawik, located in northwest Alaska, several people are accused of stealing several large bottles of the gel last month from a convenience store's back room and getting drunk off of it. In Canada, shipments to fight flu were delayed to some First Nations communities where alcohol abuse is prevalent over fears people would drink it. Last month in Britain, prison inmates drank enough of the stuff to get drunk and start a brawl, leading to a ban on hand gel.

Wells says sniffing and drinking hand sanitizers is also a risk for children, teens and young adults who may find it easier to access than liquor, or who may be experimenting with intoxicants in general. When a teacher in Canada noticed her 8- and 9-year old students "acting strange and giggling" during a recent walk, her detective work got them to confess they had swallowed hand sanitizer at school just before the walk, according to Macleans.
Far more potent than beer, wine and many liquors, Wells sees a high potential for abuse in communities that ban alcohol, and suspects hand sanitizers may have "a tremendous potential for homebrew."

"The bottom line," she said, "is that anything that contains ethanol or isopropyl alcohol can have the potential for being abused and we just need to be aware."

No comments: