It seems everyone is worried about your health. The local pharmacy is offering donuts to everyone who comes by for their “drive through” flu shot. The facial tissue companies are in full production of ads to remind you to not use your sleeve. The rush is on to stock the shelves with as much hand sanitizer as possible. Are these on your shopping list? If alcohol based hand sanitizer is used, you should use caution.
Hand Sanitizer Risks
Alcohol based hand sanitizer is pretty much everywhere these days. There is a hand sanitizer stand at the gym. There is a hand sanitizer stand at the entrance to the grocery store. It’s installed throughout school buildings. Hand sanitizer does provide a quick fix for bacteria control when soap and water are not available.
Remember though, hand sanitizer needs to be used with some caution. The alcohol can dry out your skin dramatically. Make sure to keep your hands healthy by using hand lotion to keep your skin from drying out.
Hand Sanitizer and Fire
Always be mindful that these products are ethyl alcohol based. The same ethyl alcohol that is used for fuel. Just like with any flammable liquid, cautions need to be taken.
In this quote from the Centers For Disease Control Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings dated October 2002, the dangers of alcohol hand sanitizer is recognized.
“Alcohols are flammable. Flash points of alcohol-based hand rubs range from 21ºC to 24ºC(69ºF to 75ºF), depending on the type and concentration of alcohol present. As a result, alcohol based hand rubs should be stored away from high temperatures or flames in accordance with National Fire Protection Agency recommendations.
In Europe, where alcohol-based hand rubs have been used extensively for years, the incidence of fires associated with such products has been low. One recent U.S. report described a flash fire that occurred as a result of an unusual series of events, which included a HCW(Health Care Worker) applying an alcohol gel to her hands, immediately removing a polyester isolation gown, and then touching a metal door before the alcohol had evaporated. Removing the polyester gown created a substantial amount of static electricity that generated an audible static spark when the HCW touched the metal door, igniting the evaporated alcohol on her hands. This incident emphasizes the need to rub hands together after application of alcohol-based products until all the alcohol has evaporated.”
In the winter months, humidity levels are much lower which leads to even more static electricity in the air. If you choose alcohol based sanitizers, be aware of where and how you use them.
Alcohol Hand Sanitizer Safety Tips:
- Keep away from heat sources.
- Use caution when applying them where static electricity is high.
- Do not store in unapproved containers.