Enemy of the State: Hand Sanitizer

29 Jul

EDIT: Just to clarify, the title is meant to be a joke sort of. I don’t actually think hand sanitizer constitutes an enemy of the state, I’m simply annoyed that it has become some sort of accessory that has aided some people to becoming germaphobes, though this is predominantly the fault of marketing and with hand sanitizer I add disinfectant spray and wet wipes: all useful, but I am criticizing the overuse and imagined need for these items when it comes to regular use in an environment that doesn’t call for it. I acknowledge that it is very practical in labs and health care facilities. That is all. *tip hat*

Ah yes, the now ubiquitous hand sanitizer. I have been waiting a long time to write about this and being bored as I am this is the perfect time.
In short, I do not like hand sanitizer. It has become a “necessary” accessory to soccer mom purses, offices, schools, malls, and kitchens. Maybe this is a phenomenon unique to the main line and other upper-ish middle class regions, but I suspect this is not entirely true. I have a feeling that the fear of germs has become a War on Germs complete with propaganda. On the train ride to Iowa a woman and her daughter sat in front of me. The mother carried with her an aerosol can of disinfectant that she took to the dining car, to the bathroom and sprayed on the seat of a smelly, possibly homeless man when he went to get food. Anytime her 9-year-old girl threw away trash(be it a used tissue or an empty water bottle) she was required to wipe down her paws with a moist towelette or hand sanitizer. Required. Now, to me this is an extreme case with an overzealous mom, but I bet several of you are thinking, “What’s the big deal?” You, my friend, might be a victim of germ-fearitis! It is the overinflated notion that the flu, E. Coli, salmonella, typhoid and HIV is slathered on every surface encountered at home and especially in public. I wonder if the woman on the train sprays disinfectant on her money or only pays with plastic. I also wonder what chemicals are in all of those disinfecting potions and what kind of affect they have on a child when used 10 to 20 times a day. She at least must have very dry skin.

Are there evil little germs with Hitler mustaches waiting on a restaurant door handle to hit you with a stomach bug? Sure, but there are also germs less malevolent. Exposure to germs is like a vaccine, “what doesn’t kill you makes you more strong”, as James Hetfield sings (though the sentence structure of that lyric kills me). Kids should play in the dirt, eat skittles that have touched the floor, and maybe even pick their nose on occasion. Kids have always done these things, and let’s face it, so have many adults. Ain’t no shame in it! People that get deathly ill from these things are the exception, not the rule. Not only can we not avoid every germ, we shouldn’t.

“Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product’s antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future.” –Mayo Clinic

While the Mayo Clinic does encourage washing hands or even using hand sanitizer, the point is that there is way too much fear mongering about germs that were never hurting us and might in fact help us build immunity, and creating stronger bacteria is not a good idea. Use common sense. Wash your hands when they are actually dirty, after using the toilet, sneezing on them, or when contagious with some actual illness. There are public bathrooms with soap and water: use them! Use your own bathroom! I can’t seriously think of a single occasion that hand sanitizer would have saved me. So many options, so little time.

*Thanks to my brother Greg for posing for these photos :D

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One Response to “Enemy of the State: Hand Sanitizer”

  1. Greg Mason July 29, 2010 at 9:55 PM #

    I could not agree with you more.

    How did humankind ever survive so many centuries without hand sanitizer?

    By being stronger than the germs of course. How did this happen you ask? By constant exposure to the filthy germs in the first place! We humans can adapt. Yes, God made us that way. Wasn’t he smart?

    That is how nature works. Why are germs becoming unaffected by “new and improved” anti bacterial soaps? because they are learning to roll with the changes to their environment. What a concept!

    Stay dirty my friend…

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