Downside of overusing hand sanitisers

SINCE the Covid-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, we have been required to observe standard operating procedures when we are in public places.

These include wearing face masks, scanning the MySejahtera QR code for contact tracing purposes, having our body temperature screened, observing physical distancing and disinfecting our hands with sanitisers.

We see hand sanitiser dispensers at the entrance of premises but do not really know what type or brand is being used.

Sanitisers are regulated by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) of the Health Ministry. Companies manufacturing these products must register with this agency to ensure that what they produce meets the quality and safety standards set by the ministry.

There is no data on how many brands of sanitisers are currently available in the market and some might not even be approved by the Health Ministry.

The Health Ministry has set the content of alcohol-based sanitisers to either 60% to 70% ethanol or 75% isopropyl alcohol. Additives such as bleach, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide or their mixtures are not encouraged as they can harm human skin.

As methanol is cheaply available, some unscrupulous manufacturers might use it in place of ethanol. Methanol is toxic and prolonged use could result in blindness.

The primary disinfecting ingredient in hand sanitisers is either ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. These chemical compounds do not actually remove physical dirt.

Hand sanitisers are an essential tool in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 but are not without problems of their own.

Sanitisers are formulated with thickeners, softeners and sometimes fragrances to curtail the strong smell of alcohol.

Frequent use can cause skin irritation, eczema, dry hands and a host of other medical problems.

To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the best way.

Use sanitisers only when water and soap are not available.

WONG SOO KAN , Petaling Jaya

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