Mother Earth Living

Smart Parenting

Practical advice about raising children

Why Hand Sanitizers Shouldn't Be in Your Child’s Classroom

5/30/2013 9:30:00 AM

Tags: hand sanitizer, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, antibiotics, antibacterial, triclosan, endocrine disruptors, essential oils, cleaning, Kate Hunter

Every year you’ll find it on your child’s school supply list: hand sanitizer. You’ll find the words “antibacterial” plastered on every home-care and personal-care product across the board. Our culture is obsessed with this idea of killing bacteria yet most of us have no idea what we are really doing.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are nothing new to some of us. With the onslaught of MRSA, mainstream news outlets have covered the story from time to time, but we continue to use products like hand sanitizers, unknowingly turning our children’s hands into little Petri dishes. Doctors are taking steps to curb the problem, such as testing for bacterial infections before simply handing out prescriptions for antibiotics to every child with a runny nose, but the school system seems to have ignored the warnings and, in fact, studies claim the use of hand sanitizers has had a positive effect in the classroom, resulting in less absenteeism. On the other hand, numerous studies show, “these antibacterial hand washes and disinfectants are also contributing to the rapid growth of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that pose a serious risk to human health.” Let’s not forget that using these products also kills off the beneficial bacteria in the environment, just as antibiotics kill off healthy gut bacteria.

hand sanitizer
Photo By SonnyandSandy/Flickr

So what could be worse?

Triclosan: the most popular ingredient in antibacterial products and a heavy endocrine-disrupting substance. Triclosan can be found in everything from clothing to kitchenware, furniture, toys and, of course, in antibacterial soaps, toothpastes and cosmetics. If you don’t know much about endocrine disruptors, go check out Mrs. Green’s explanation or at least throw “endocrine disruptors” into your search bar. Basically, triclosan has the ability to alter your body’s hormones in a negative way. Recent studies have also found triclosan to weaken muscles and hinder the heart’s ability to circulate blood. In layman’s terms, this chemical can stop your heart. Bacteria don’t sound so scary now, do they?

“But these products are regulated by the FDA,” you say.

Well, let me remind you that Michael R. Taylor, the deputy commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration, worked for Monsanto and wrote the rBGH labeling guidelines. Turns out, rBGH is so bad even Wal-Mart banned it from its milk. I don’t think two million people marching in opposition to GMOs can all be wrong either, and I’m a firm believer in independent studies so research it for yourself to make your own decision. The FDA is looking into triclosan and you can wait for their determination—or you can simply stop using hand sanitizers and the like and turn to a natural alternative. In my opinion, it’s better to be on the safe side.

Naturally antibacterial essential oils:

• Basil
• Orange
• Chamomile
• Patchouli
• Peppermint
• Coriander
• Cypress
• Eucalyptus
• Rosemary
• Geranium
• Rosewood
• Grapefruit
• Sage
• Lemon
• Sandalwood
• Lime
• Spearmint
• Also spicier oils like thyme, oregano, and clove.

Any of the above essential oils can be added to your cleaning products and will make them antibacterial without the harmful chemicals. As for hand sanitizer? Try making your own with this easy recipe.


Kate HunterKate Hunter enjoys organic gardening, whole food cooking, crafting, making natural products, and following up on politics and the latest health food news. After changing her major from art to biology to English, she finally obtained a B.A. in English with an emphasis on writing from Southern Oregon University and has been writing about nutrition, healthy living, cooking, and gardening for over nine years. Kate is a published author both online and in print and has owned, operated, and published a literary journal. She is a mother of three, speaks sarcasm, some Spanish, but mostly English and spends her time baking, taking pictures, canning, growing and drying herbs, reading, selling natural products and homemade crafts in her Etsy store HomemadeByKate, and checking food labels of course. 



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