Diary Entry 11: Confessions of a Hand Sanitiser Addict
As a ‘clean freak’, I LOVE hand sanitizer. I praise the day that it became available to us in dinky little bottles. It is cheap and it fits just about anywhere – which makes it very easy to keep one in your bag; in your pocket; beside the bed; in the car; in your desk drawer; in the kitchen; in the bathroom…… plus a few spares scattered in random cupboards. It has changed my world; it has probably changed the world for many ‘clean freaks’ because it offers us ‘peace of mind’.
But where did this need to ‘sanitise’ come from? Did it come on the back of all those microscope images that show us exactly what germs, bacteria and viruses look like? I know the photos are magnified but these things look horrific!
Scientists fell over themselves to tell us that these horrors are caked onto EVERYTHING. When the shop assistant passes your change she is giving you a handful of Norovirus. The office door you have just walked through is crawling with Influenza (and possibly Ebola depending on how active your imagination is) – and don’t even start me on public bathrooms.
If ‘knowledge is power’ then it did not apply in this case. Knowledge about these horrors brought alarm! And I initially responded to my alarm by carting Wet Ones around with me. That was back in the day when they were only available in large plastic containers with a flip up lid. Not so handy for your pocket; handbag etc, but the inconvenience was so worthwhile. That sweet sensation of a damp cloth wiping away the horrors was both comforting and uplifting.
And it soon caught on! Society (and advertising companies) soon realised that Wet Ones were not just for chocolate caked babies and oily handed mechanics. They were an all purpose, portable solution for everyone (and a calming device for anxiety sufferers). When shops first began to stock ‘pocket sized’ hand wipes I almost wept with joy. As a self confessed ‘indecision maker’, I was momentarily thrown by the influx of brands and fragrances but I found a ‘lemon fresh’ option and stuck to it.
With every wipe of my hands I gaily banished germs, bacteria and viruses. I watched others do the same, all of us feeling free from the risk of lurking infections and illness.
But then the guilt set in. How many of these little wipes were being discarded every day across the globe. How would the environment cope with the waste. My anxiety about ruining the earth was up against anxiety about catching a nasty bug from a door handle. I compromised. I began to tear the wipes in half thus reducing my waste volume by 50% but it was still a worry.
And then it arrived – the ‘hand sanitiser’. A wonder liquid that hits the skin with a germ busting tingle and then disappears!! No waste! (other than the empty bottle of course but lets not spoil the feel good factor here).
With every bus trip, Tesco trolley dash and visit to my Dad, I skoosh my cares away with a little bottle of hand sanitiser. Of course, there is still a place for hand wipes in my life, but nothing beats the feel of that clear liquid coating my hands and vaporising the surface; that nippy, fresh sensation as the alcohol zaps the microscopic baddies.
I feel INVINCIBLE!
So who can blame for closing my ears when I hear certain rumours on the wind. The suggestion that hand sanitiser may not be all its’ cracked up to be!’ WHAT? That it might even be BAD for us! NO!
Oh but YES! There may be a whole pile of ‘cons’ to counteract the ‘pros’. It pains me to list the down side of my beloved hand sanitiser but a problem shared is a problem halved.
Apparently it may not actually work at all; it does not eliminate all types of germs; the alcohol content might be less than claimed; it may destroy ‘good’ bacteria’ on your skin; it may reduce your own immune system; it may contribute to the emergence of powerful resistant bacteria and superbugs that will one day destroy us all (OK I didn’t read that anywhere but it’s a reasonable assumption isn’t it?).
Of particular note is that it may lull us into a false sense of security and discourage us from washing our hands with soap and water. In other words, whilst thinking that we are being super hygienic we may actually be taking less care with our cleanliness! As an example we are reminded that hand sanitiser will not remove dirt.
So if, for example, there is a spot of invisible ‘faecal matter’ present then we will simply smear shit all over our hands when rubbing in that gel! Can you imagine?
And (gulp) …… I can hardly bare to tell you this but I read that the residue which remains after application of hand sanitiser may cause us to pick up even more unsavoury particles because they stick to the gel.
Finally – there are folks out there who have been drinking it! Apparently the alcohol content makes for a potent liquor that can cause blindness, memory loss and organ damage. Obviously I do not want to see myself on this ruinous path but I have a dilemma now. If I can’t use it to sanitise my hands any more, what else am I going to do with the 237 bottles which are lying around the house?
Next Week: Water Shortage!