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The Real Dirt on Hand Sanitizers

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

The recent Swine Flu scare, and the subsequent calls of government health officials to use hand sanitizers regularly as a key means of reducing the likelihood of contracting the virus, has reignited the alcohol vs. benzalkonium chloride debate. While alcohol based hand sanitizers with concentration levels above 60% are effective at killing germs, next generation sanitizers containing benzalkonium chloride have been shown to provide protection long after an alcohol based sanitizer evaporates from your skin.

Handclens (the generic name for AMK’s Adventure Hand Sanitizer ), which contains BZK, kills all 3 types of germs: viruses, bacteria and fungi, including Influenza Type A, of which Swine Flu H1N1 is a subtype.

Handclens has been the subject of four peer-reviewed scientific investigations.

Two studies addressed the product’s efficacy against the Federal Guidelines for antiseptic hand washes and healthcare personnel hand washes.

Where the BZK-based hand sanitizers exceeded FDA regulations, the alcohol-containing sanitizers did not meet federal performance standards. (The results of these studies are represented by the image below.)

Benzalkonium chloride hand sanitizer vs. alchohol

FDA testing protocol listed in Federal Register, Vol 59 (116), June 17, 1994, 21 CFR 333.470. “Effectiveness testing of an antiseptic Handwash or healthcare

personnel Handwash.”

The studies found that repeated use of alcohol-based sanitizers germ-killing effectiveness (the antimicrobial persistence of activity) is reduced by the drying effect of alcohol, which leaves microscopic cracks in the skin that can allow bacteria to become trapped or hidden.

Beyond being an inferior germ killer, alcohol-based hand sanitizers pose an obvious fire hazard and potential health risk, especially for young children. Last year poison control centers reported that 12,000 kids under the age of six ingested alcohol-based hand gels.

Remember that hand sanitizers are great for cleaning your hands when not in proximity to a washroom, but traditional hand cleaning using soap and water (about as long as you can sing “happy birthday to you”) are equally as effective  and even more effective when your hands are soiled with dirt and grime.