This is how harmful disinfectant gel is to health

Hygienic wipes, antibacterial gels, disinfectant sprays and the like – there is a large selection of germ killers on drugstore shelves. No wonder, because the handy disinfectant gel bottles are becoming an indispensable companion in everyday life for more and more people. However, using it several times a day does exactly the opposite of what is expected and can even be harmful in the long run. Experts therefore advise: Hands off!

Touching the handrail in the subway, touching public doorknobs, shaking hands with someone with a cold: In such situations, many people immediately reach for disinfectants, because pathogenic germs and bacteria don’t stand a chance against them. At least that’s a common belief. In a representative survey by Wort & Bild Verlag, 24.3 percent of Germans stated that they always carry disinfectant products with them. The urge to get rid of all those «nasty bugs» can become an obsession. But anyone who thinks that the disinfection ritual that takes place several times a day contributes to healthy hygiene is wrong. According to experts, it even endangers your health. Therefore, the BfR (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment) advises only using disinfectants in the private sphere in exceptional cases.

The natural protective layer of the skin is attacked

It goes without saying that disinfectant gel is anything but a skin care product. However, the risk of damaging the skin should not be underestimated. “The additives can damage the natural skin flora, which makes a significant contribution to protecting the organism from pathogens. They can also cause allergic skin reactions and eczema,” warns a BfR spokesman. The result: the skin not only becomes cracked, reddened and dry, but also more permeable to germs and bacteria. So as soon as the effect of the applied disinfectant has worn off, the pollutants can literally march through cheerfully. In addition, the «good bacteria» that actually protect our skin also have to believe in it.

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Triclosan makes germs multi-resistant

The active ingredient triclosan, which is added to many drugstore gels, turns out to be particularly insidious. Actually a wonderful bacteria killer and also odor neutralizing. The problem, however, is that at some point triclosan can no longer be effective against certain bacteria. “How exactly this resistance arises is currently being investigated in research projects. Laboratory experiments have already shown that bacteria not only become resistant to triclosan, but also to antibiotics at the same time. Because the controversial active ingredient is also suspected of damaging the hormone system and triggering allergies, the BfR has been recommending for years to limit triclosan to the medical field. Triclosan is already banned in many countries, such as the USA. In this country, it is not only used in disinfectants, but also in deodorants and even in toothpaste.

There is a risk of poisoning in children

The BfR advises generally avoiding the use of disinfectants in the household. The effectiveness of a disinfectant depends not only on the active ingredients used and their concentration, but also on application conditions such as exposure time or temperature. Appropriate use is therefore only possible under precisely defined conditions. If small children swallow disinfectants, there is also a risk of serious poisoning. An unnecessary source of danger that can easily be avoided. And one more fact should convince: The many chemicals make disinfectants an environmental toxin.

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Water and soap are sufficient

«Regular washing with soap and water is sufficient to ensure good hygiene,» said the spokesman. The only exception: If you are traveling in distant countries, such as Asia or Africa, and there is neither water nor soap in sight, then a bottle of disinfectant gel is better than nothing at all. In normal everyday life, however, they do more harm than good.