The FDA puts under scrutiny the safety of hand sanitizer use. Millions of Americans use hand sanitizer daily, so the FDA undertook to investigate how safe it is. The FDA requested makers of hand sanitizers to provide data showing the products’ active ingredients actually reduce bacteria and are harmless over time.
The largest concern was regarding the long-term effects of sanitizers on pregnant women and children.
Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said, “These products provide a convenient alternative when hand washing with plain soap and water is unavailable, but it’s our responsibility to determine whether these products are safe and effective so that consumers can be confident when using them on themselves and their families multiple times a day.”
The agency wants more data on the active ingredients in hand-sanitizing products, such as towelettes, gels, and rubs that purport to kill bacteria. Alcohol — ethanol or ethyl alcohol — is used in 90 percent of the sanitizers, the FDA said. Other ingredients under scrutiny are isopropyl alcohol and benzalkonium chloride.
The FDA stressed that their analysis does not mean they believe that hand sanitizers are ineffective or unsafe, but rather the request comes from new research and recommendations from an independent advisory committee.
Recent findings uncovered higher than normal levels of antiseptic ingredients in people’s blood and urine, raising the question of absorption.
Washing your hands with soap and water still remains to be the safest and most effective way to keep your hands clean and prevent the spread of germs. But in cases when soap and water are not available, hand sanitizers offer a simple and easy alternative for quick sanitation.
Richard Sedlak, executive vice president for technical and international affairs at the American Cleaning Institute, said, “We believe that the FDA has a wealth of data on hand sanitizers in their possession to judge them as generally recognized as safe and effective. However, we will work to provide additional data as necessary to ensure the agency has the most complete, useful, and up-to-date information on these beneficial products.”
Whether you are using soap and water or hand sanitizer currently to keep yourself germ-free, it is recommended that hand scrubbing should last for at least 20 seconds for greatest effectiveness of germ removal.
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