Many times, over the years, I’ve received forwards in my inbox that looked serious and important enough to pass along, only to find afterwards that they were “urban legends,” or hoaxes. I’ve learned that it’s only a quick type of the keys to visit Snopes.com to see if there is any basis of fact, before I hit the “forward” button on my email. Today, apparently, there is a reality that I think all of my Kindermusik families need to be made aware of.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are one of the more recent tools in home and school medicine arsenals, proven “effective in reducing gastrointestinal illnesses in households, in curbing absentee rates in elementary schools, and in reducing illnesses in university dormitories. An Internet search retrieved recommendations for hand hygiene from schools, daycare centers, outdoor guides, and animal shelters.” Reynolds SA, Levy F, Walker ES. Hand sanitizer alert [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2006 Mar [date cited]. Available from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol12no03/05-0955.htm
However, in investigating more about the email I received, I now have concerns not only about sanitizers and possible danger to toddlers and preschools from ingestion, but also about mis-labeled sanitizers found on shelves of discount stores nationwide, similar to the toothpaste-antifreeze scare of recent days.
For alcohol-based hand sanitizers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends an alcohol concentration of 60 to 95% of ethanol or isopropanol for the great efficacy in killing germs. In the study listed above, it was found that some hand sanitizer products purchased from local retail deep-discount stores in east Tennessee, advertising the same claims as those found on name-brand products such as Purell, had, in reality, only a 40% ethyl alcohol concentration – much too low to reduce bacterial counts on hands. In fact, the faulty product seemed to “mobilize the bacteria, spreading them around the hand instead of killing them.” (N.Y.Times: Hand Sanitizers: Good or Bad? , by Deborah Franklin, March 21, 2006)
How can you tell if the antimicrobial hand sanitizer is, in actuality, effective at reducing germs and does what it claims?
Simple – read the label.
Look for the “active ingredient” which should be, at least, 60 to 95% ethanol or isopropanol alcohol. Anything under 60% is likely not to do the job. Don’t try to save a few pennies by shopping at the local dollar discount store without closely examining the labels first. Be proactive on your family’s behalf.
In a closely related subject, be careful to train and observe your child in the use of hand sanitizers. There have been two documented instances of a 2 year old and a 4 year old becoming seriously intoxicated after ingesting hand sanitizer from licking the backs of their hands. Due to the alcohol content of the hand sanitizers and the relative small sizes of the children, it only takes a very small amount to produce all the side effects of an adult drinking too much booze. In fact, Heidi Kuhl, a health educator at the Central New York Poison Control Center, is quoted as saying,”Ingesting as little as an ounce or two of this product could be fatal to a toddler.”
As concerned parents, we all lock up cleaning solutions and laundry products to prevent our children from getting into something that can be dangerous to them. Many adults unthinkingly equate hand sanitizers to hand lotion and think it’s harmless, leaving it out on a counter or table, not realizing the poisoning danger to young children. Bottles of topical anti-bacterial sanitizers do carry warnings.
For example, Purell hand sanitizer does clearly state on the back of the bottle:
Keep out of reach of children. If swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.
(By the way, if you click on the Purell pictured above, it will take you to a page on the Pfizer website that gives exhaustive information on their product, including the above.)
And, just to give you some additional peace of mind, in our Kindermusik studio, all instruments are cleaned after class, using award-winning Clorox Anywhere.
Scarves are sanitized by washing thoroughly in a lingerie bag in the washer and running them through a dryer for 10 minutes to kill germs. Sponges, towels, and other fabric props are washed in hot water and also dried accordingly in a hot dryer. We take your child’s health seriously and do our best to prevent the transfer of bacteria and viruses in our classes.
For additional information, please follow any of the links listed above as well as below:
Booze Ooze – Snopes.com
Hand Sanitizers: Good or Bad? – N. Y. Times
Hand Sanitizer Alert – CDC
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