The other day my friend walked into my dorm room, and I nearly keeled over. She had just used the hand sanitizer in our floor bathroom, and the smell was ridiculously strong. Now, people had been using this sanitizer all year (I myself have used it on occasion, though Iím more of a soap person), and it had not bothered me very much. I didnít like the smell of it, but it wasnít terrible.
I donít know what changed for me, but something did. I absolutely cannot stand it It gives me a headache and makes me want to throw up at the same time. I can smell the chemicals wafting toward me. Itís terrible.
The problem: Our dorm bathroom is not very well-equipped. We have this hand sanitizer or we have that pink soap that seems to be a staple in every communal/public restroom. The immediate issue with washing our hands is the lack of towels in the bathroom. Meaning, there are none. Thatís right. No paper-towel dispenser. Hence, using soap and water is problematic, whereas hand sanitizer is easy.
While it is tempting, I have determined that hand sanitizer is not the way to go (see above). So, yes, I use the soap and water and then rush back to my room with wet hands to the towel waiting invitingly in my room. Then, comes my question of whether or not I should even be using that soapómy mother was never pleased with using it in public restroomsómaybe itís not good for me? Though she was even more adamant about not using the hand sanitizer.
Well, really, neither is good. Antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers are made from synthetic antibacterial chemicals. The most common ingredient in these products is triclosan, a pesticide. Why is triclosan so bad? First of all, it is restricted for use in cosmetics in both Japan and Canadaóalready a tip off to its validity as a hazardous chemical . It is listed as possibly or likely being linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, skin irritation and allergies, organ system toxicity and developmental and reproductive toxicity. A recent study has shown that 75 percent of a cross-section test group of just over 2,500 people had triclosan present in their urine proving its bioaccumulation within the fatty tissues.
And the scary part is that triclosan is found in hundreds of common products ranging from hand sanitizer, makeup and deodorant to toothpaste and shoe insoles. For a list of the products in which triclosan poses a plausible hazard, go here.
This seems like enough of a reason to stop the use of antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer to me. The question is, how to do so. Well, it is just as effective to use any regular liquid soap and water as it is to use these specialized antibacterial ones, and much healthier chemical-wise. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 15 to 20 seconds and dry your hands with a clean towel and you will kill just as much bacteria . I use Kiss My Face hand soap. It makes my hands feel quite lovely.
Recap: When looking to wash your hands, stay away from unnatural hand sanitizer. Use liquid soap, but not one that is antibacterial. Also, stay away from artificially scented soaps. Your best bet for a safe soap is the personal care aisle of your health food store.
Note to self: To sanitize, stay away from sanitizer.
Lily Berthold-Bond grew up in a chemical-free zone and has struggled her whole life to understand and accept this non-commercial lifestyle. Now a freshman at Tufts University, she has embraced her green life and hopes to share its possibilities with the rest of her generation.