Hand Sanitizers Come Under Scrutiny
A widely used category of chemical substances is coming under scrutiny for possibly having harmful side-effects. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Hrubec: Over 800,000 tons of these compounds are produced each year in the US.
Terry Hrubec is a research assistant professor in the College of Veterinary medicine at Virginia Tech. She and her colleagues have been studying QAC’s or Quats since 2006.
Hrubec: We might encounter them on a daily basis in a wide variety of circumstances. Probably the most likely are from our laundry products, also in restaurant and food production settings, where they wipe the tables down with these compounds and also in restrooms where they’re commonly used as cleaners.
Hrubec: A lot of hand sanitizer’s contain these Quatanary Ammonia Compounds. This is particularly troubling as often they’re used to clean hands before eating. And so then you have a Quat contamination on your hands as you’re handling your food, and you’re going ingest some of that chemical.
Hrubec’s laboratory experiments have shown that Quats adversely affect the reproductive systems of mice.
Hrubec: We can show that they’re harmful to mice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they pose a problem for humans. It’s unethical to test chemicals on humans the same way we test them in mice. We can’t expose people and look for adverse effects. But there’s also published evidence to show that workers who use these disinfectants in their job – these are janitorial staff, nursing staff and other healthcare professionals – they have higher rates of asthma, allergies and skin irritation from exposure to these compounds. And that’s been well documented.
We’ll hear more on Quats in future programs. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.