Hand sanitizer is ubiquitous in some of America’s germiest hotspots. Airports, doctor’s offices, classrooms, gyms, portable toilets—you name it. The safety of the antiseptic substance has been hotly debated for some time now. On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned manufacturers from using 28 active ingredients in over-the-counter bottles of hand sanitizer.
The government organization first announced its intention to analyze safety data on the antibacterial gel back in 2016. Now, less than three years later, the FDA is specifically calling out toxic actives with a history of health concerns, like triclosan and benzethonium chloride. Although 28 ingredients sounds like a substantial number, however, the change will effect less than 3 percent of the hand sanitizer marketplace. Most bottles of hand sanitizer you’ll find on the shelves at the drugstore use ethyl alcohol as the antiseptic.
“Our action today aims to help provide consumers with confidence that the over-the-counter hand sanitizers they’re using are safe and effective when they don’t have access to water to wash with soap.”
“Our action today aims to help provide consumers with confidence that the over-the-counter hand sanitizers they’re using are safe and effective when they don’t have access to water to wash with soap,” says Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in a press release. The organization will continue to study the public safety of three other chemicals sometimes found in hand sanitizer—benzalkonium chloride, ethyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol—before deciding if those, too, should be struck from the list of ingredients.
If fear of the dreaded spring cold prompts you to reapply your desk hand sanitizer on the hour, don’t forget to scan the ingredients list for any (completely unpronounceable) unsafe chemicals.
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