Harmful Hand Sanitizers

By Rosemarie Colombraro

Every purse, diaper bag, and glove compartment in America seems to house an antibacterial hand sanitizer. And while that chemical rub may keep your hands germ-free, it is hardly doing your health a favor. A recent study by University of California, Davis, researchers showed that an antibacterial chemical called triclocarban (TCC), commonly added to sanitizers and soaps, may interfere with the way sex hormones function. Researchers found that TCC actually increases the effects of testosterone, causing abnormal growth in the prostate glands of male rats. This isn’t the first time that research has voiced concerns about this chemical: A 2006 study at the University of Victoria, Sweden, linked a variation of TCC called triclosan to thyroid dysfunction. Clinical studies show that antibacterial soap is no more effective than regular soap at protecting against disease in healthy people, so why even use it?

In instances where dangerous bacteria could be present and hand sanitizing is a must, you can substitute natural alternatives. “Several essential oils have demonstrated significant antibacterial activity in the laboratory,” says Andrea Joy Cohen, MD, integrative physician and founder of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Program in Cancer at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. “Tea tree, clove, eucalyptus, manuka, lavender, and orange oils look very promising.”

Here are the TCC-free antibacterials we keep on hand for those sinkless situations:

Body Organic. Fruit extracts and organic alcohol work together to fight off bacteria.
$5, 2 oz; naturesparadiseorganics.com

CleanWell. Citrus-scented essential plant oils keep germs at bay in this alcohol-free sanitizer.
$10, 1 oz; cleanwelltoday.com

Burt’s Bees. Witch hazel’s antimicrobial properties cleanse and soothe skin, and first-aid favorite aloe vera keeps hands feeling soft.
$5, 2 oz; burtsbees.com