Is hand sanitizer destroying students’ muscles?

When H1N1 hit the scene, many people rushed to the store to buy large quantities of hand sanitizer.  Some districts spent thousands of dollars to provide all students with personal hand sanitizer packets.  Companies rushed to outfit schools with bulk dispensers at every turn.

What happened next was amazing.  Schools shocked to find out that not only were these hand sanitizers not effective against H1N1 (mainly due to dwell time), but they also really couldn’t be used in schools because of the alcohol content – which posed two hazards: fire and chemical ingestion in younger students.

The truly great risk managers (see our post on the 6 Super Powers of Great Risk Managers)  knew that the real answer was simple – wash your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds.  You’ll be fine.

H1N1 marked a new era in hand washing and sanitizing.  The remnants of which are still found in schools across the country.  But with the recent news releases from U.C. Davis regarding a chemical called Triclosan, hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial soaps may be more dangerous than we ever thought.  If the soaps and hand sanitizers your school uses contains Triclosan, it may be diminishing the strength of your students and staff’s muscles.

Researchers at U.C. Davis found that lab animals exposed to Triclosan had decreased muscle activity with 20 to 60 minutes after exposure.  Weaker heart rates and less grip strength are only the beginning.

Some animals had a 10 percent decrease in overall muscle activity.  So, what’s all this mean for students at your school?

Well, let’s start by saying that the effect on humans is unknown at this time and more studies need to be performed. Drawing conclusions from animal testing is only partially beneficial.  What conclusions we can draw are these: younger students will be more susceptible to Triclosan – just like they are to lead; those that use the products more frequently and in larger quantities will also be more susceptible .

Risk Managers should review the soaps and sanitizers that they provide to students, especially in the K-5 environment and replace them with products that do not contain Tricloosan.





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