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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Scientific Study":Hand Sanitizers Better than Washing When it Comes to Common Cold

Before you jump up and down at the headline, we didn't create it.  This was the headline to a story published today by the American Society of Microbiology.

First, the reader should be reminded that we're advocates of proper hand hygiene, and we believe the first line of defense is properly washing hands with appropriate soap (and water). lets examine the story itself--and carefully consider the first paragraph:

A new study suggests that hand sanitizers containing ethanol are much more effective at removing rhinovirus from hands than washing with soap and water. Sanitizers containing both ethanol and organic acids significantly reduced recovery of the virus from hands and rhinovirus infection up to 4 hours following application. The researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville and Dial Corporation, Scottsdale, Arizona detail their findings in the March 2010 issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Without having to explain that rhinovirus is the scientific name for what is otherwise the common cold, suffice to suggest that the remaining prelude to the study was otherwise redundant in promoting the idea of rubbing alcohol on to the skin, even though most experts will acknowledge that alcohol actually breaks down protective skin cells, and increases the risk of exposure to pathogens.

The real troubling aspect of this "academic study" can be found right on its face: the research was underwritten by Dial Corporation, ironically one of the leading makers of hand soap, but not so ironically, they're also one of the leading makers of alcohol hand sanitizer.

Next paragraph to the 'coming soon trailer':

The experiments ranged from a control group who had no treatment, several groups who washed their hands for differing amounts of time (some with soap, some without), and several who used varying amounts of hand sanitizer. Results showed that the ethanol hand sanitizer removed approximately 80% of detectable rhinovirus from hands and was much more effective than no treatment, water alone, or soap and water. Soap and water removed rhinovirus from 31% of hands.

We know enough to acknowledge that many soaps aren't always so great for any number of reasons (check the actual ingredients), but the fact that these 'independent academics' and 'researchers' somehow failed to include non-alcohol sanitizers within their 'exhaustive clinical study' might be because Dial Soap doesn't manufacture non-alcohol hand sanitizer.

Lets open the debate, and invite comments from objective professionals (sic:those who have not been paid a salary and/or consulting fees within the last five years from any manufacturer or marketer of hand hygiene products). We're therefore looking for accredited experts that have actually researched and compared alcohol-hand sanitizers to quarternary ammonium-based products..

We've certainly interrogated all of the comparison studies that we could get our hands on, which explains why we keep this blog updated as frequently as possible.  Vote with your hands..or your feet..

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