Hand Sanitizers Causing a "Buzz"

By: Ryan Dearbone Email
By: Ryan Dearbone Email

A household product used to protect your children could actually be harmful to them .

In recent years, alcohol-based hand sanitizers have replaced traditional soap and water in many homes and businesses. However, as long as hand sanitizers have been on the market, myths have plagued the germ-killer.

One of the most popular urban legends about hand sanitizers says drinking the substance can cause intoxication.

A recent e-mail has circulated throughout the country, claiming a four-year-old girl was rushed to the hospital gravely ill after licking hand sanitizer off her hand. The e-mail caused quite a stir among those who received it. While the email's story is believed to be false, the concern over intoxication from hand sanitizer is very real.

F.O. Moxley Community Center Assistant, Jeff Young, said when the kids at the summer fun camp get their hands dirty, they don't turn to hand sanitizer.

"Basically, we just use our first preventative methods and that's good old soap and water," Young said.

So, camp officials aren't worried about any of their campers getting intoxicated from using the hand cleanser.

Henry Spiller of the Ky. Regional Poison Control Center said you can get drunk by consuming large amounts of hand sanitizer because most sanitizers contain ethyl alcohol, or ethanol.

"It's the same type of alcohol you find in a beer or a bottle of wine. The only difference is that there's more alcohol in hand sanitizers than in an alcoholic beverage," Spiller explained.

According to Realbeer.com, most beers are only five-percent alcohol. Wine tops out at about twelve-percent. However, a nearly seven-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer contains 62-percent alcohol. That means a child around two or three-years-old could easily be affected.

"It wouldn't take them a large amount. Maybe a one-ounce container would contain enough for a very small child," Spiller assured.

Spiller said most of the concern falls on young teens because their bodies aren't prepared for alcoholic beverages. Using other means to get intoxicated isn't anything new to recovering alcoholic, "Mark". He said he used to try other ways to get drunk.

"I used mouthwash to get high when I couldn't get alcohol because that was readily accessible at my house or my friend's house," "Mark" said.

He said over the years, he's known people who have drank rubbing alcohol and after shave to get drunk. "Mark" believes it's the accessibility of these items on store shelves and the lower costs as main reasons to try.

"It's not the most pleasant thing in the world, but if you're addicted to it and your body craves it, then you're going to do whatever's necessary to get what you want," "Mark" admitted.

WBKO contacted the Dial Corp., which makes both "Purell" and "Dial" hand sanitizers and received no response regarding the alcohol in their product. Spiller said warning signs someone may be abusing hand sanitizer are bottles that suddenly go missing or become empty.

So far, Spiller said they've had several hundred calls here in Ky. about people drinking sanitizer, but in only one case did a person exhibit symptoms of intoxication.

For more information and links to reports of hand sanitizer intoxication, click here and check out another story by clicking here.

To read the e-mail claiming a four-year old girl was rushed to the hospital ill after licking hand sanitizer off her hand, click here.

Learn about estimated blood-alcohol-content levels in common alcoholic drinks, as compared to the alcohol in hand sanitizer by clicking here.


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