I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the line, I turned into one of those hand sanitizer-toting nut jobs. I never got as bad as clipping a travel sized one to the side of my purse, but still…I became the person I used to mock. I first picked up some hand sanitizer on a blissful pre-kid trip with Ted to New York. I knew from previous trips there that my hands felt gross after grabbing the poles on the subway and I also knew how fond I was of eating food off of a pushcart, so it seemed like a no-brainer. Somehow, though, this admittedly wonderful convenience tool morphed into something I used several times a day. Sometimes, even after I’d washed my hands with soap and water. (I’m not OCD, but some public restrooms facilities make you wonder if it would be more sanitary to skip the sinks altogether.)
Anyway, the topic of hand sanitizers came up at play group the other day, with one of the other moms talking about how hand sanitizers were a hot topic at her daughter’s Montessori preschool. I had to mediate a squabble and I missed the background of her story, but the gist of it was that some parents at this particular preschool objected to hand sanitizers as unsafe and unhealthy. Honestly, I had never even given their safety a second thought. I just loved them for their efficacy, and, as the daughter of an ER physician, I love the smell of alcohol and institutional cleaning products of all kinds. I usually keep that last bit of information to myself, but I’m just being honest here.
My curiosity was definitely piqued. As soon as I got the boys into bed late that night, I did a little reading on the subject. I wasn’t surprised to confirm that generally, washing hands with soap and water was preferred, but was stunned to know that some liquid soaps contain an undesirable antibacterial triclosan that many groups are petitioning the EPA to ban. (Of course, that led to a 20-minute scrutiny of every bottle of liquid hand soap in the house, as well as my bulk warehouse acquired stockpile in the garage.)
I was also stunned to learn that the average American washes her hands twice a day, and one of those times is in the shower, at that! Gross. I don’t get on a soapbox (pun intended) very often, but I can certainly think that we can all do better than that. I keep forgetting to track my own hand washing, but I garden and cook and clean so much that I’m sure it’s 12-15 times per day. And back when I had babies in diapers? I still cringe when I think how raw and chapped my hands got from the constant washing.
At any rate, I was already familiar with the controversy about alcohol-based gel hand sanitizers, but hadn’t taken the time to see if there were any other options. Like I said before, I like the “clean” smell of rubbing alcohol. But if you are inclined, there are definitely some all-natural, plant-based varieties out there.
The real take home message for me was to make sure my boys practice proper hand washing with soap and water, but to know that hand sanitizers have their place, too. For more, check out http://blog.oregonlive.com/pdxgreen/2011/01/sanitizers_get_hands_clean_are.html
Are your kids’ classrooms equipped with hand sanitizers? Do you keep one in your car and another in your purse? Do you sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself while washing with soap and water to make sure you scrub long enough? J
More in a few days, Corey