At Risk: Consequences of Using Hand Sanitizers with Technical Grade Ethanol

“Remember, there is a big difference in product quality and we need to be able to identify which products serve us and which don’t.”

You should feel protected when using hand sanitizers, do you? Have you checked the ingredients, did you know that technical grade ethanol is a toxic type of alcohol that might be among those that can do more harm than good. So what is the problem, really? Technical grade is also known as denaturized alcohol, or methylated spirit that might contain methanol, isopropyl alcohol, acetone, ketones, or other poisons.

You might ask why technical grade is being used and not hospital grade. Normally, hand sanitizers are made with pharmaceutical or food-grade ethanol. But because of the unexpected demand for hand sanitizer products during the current COVID-19 pandemic, global shortages of pharmaceutical and food-grade ethanol has been created. In response, Health Canada gave a time-limited approval of technical-grade ethanol to be used in hand sanitizers; I know sheer government brilliance!

“We engaged a broad range of technical and scientific experts in the assessment of the potential risks to health posed by hand sanitizers containing technical-grade ethanol with concentrations of up to 1000 ppm of acetaldehyde.[1] Based on the results of this assessment, we have determined that, when used as directed and for a limited period of time, the public health benefits of using hand sanitizer containing specific sources of technical-grade ethanol outweigh the risk.”[2]

A controversial decision that brings many health risks into play which, unfortunately, for the average consumer are definitely not obvious for the first sight. The need to understand product quality and not to assume everything is the same is essential, especially at a time like this. There are many products that appear to provide the same solution for a particular problem when in fact they don’t or, even worse, they cause harm.

What else does Health Canada’s Risk Assessment Summary Report say? It claims that “concerns remain about potential carcinogenicity due to an increase in acetaldehyde exposure, particularly if the hand sanitizer is used for a longer duration. The risk is considered a Type II health hazard, which means that the use of, or exposure to, a product may cause temporary adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote.”

It also includes the worst case scenario which does not sound reassuring at all. “Based on these factors, and using a worst case scenario of an acetaldehyde concentration of 1000 ppm (v/v), the increased cancer risk resulting from both dermal and inhalation exposures when applying hand sanitizers would not be considered negligible. However, this risk is considered to be tolerable for the short-term, under the current COVID-19 circumstances. By the way, front line workers, nurses working in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) applications could be as high as 109 exposures per day. Should the level of acetaldehyde decrease, the risk of cancer would decrease as well.”

Fortunately, there are options that are safe to use while providing the expected benefits. Our Earth Pure Hand Sanitizer contains 60% grain alcohol, colloidal silver, aloe vera, (organic), tea tree oil, oregano oil, eucalyptus, neem, lemongrass, peppermint, xanthan gum and carbomer. While keeping its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, it is also all natural, non-GMO, cruelty free and USP Grade, not technical grade.

Remember, there is a big difference in product quality and we need to be able to identify which products serve us and which don’t. This is not a time to gamble with our health; only evidence based natural medicine with no side effects is what is needed with the coronavirus.

 

References:

[1] Acetaldehyde is considered to be possibly carcinogenic to humans according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

[2] Health Canada. 2020.