HAND sanitisers and wet wipes contain chemical components that could cause allergies and even harm the reproductive system, medical experts warn.
Szeto King-ho (司徒敬豪), a specialist in emergency medicine, said a third of patients during the infectious disease peak season suffer from skin diseases.
He said that although there are no statistics on how many people had skin diseases because of allergies to sanitisers and wipes, these products contain artificial fragrances,
disinfectants, humectants, preservatives and fluorescent materials that could increase the risk of skin diseases.
In fact, he said, bacteria can be killed by using hand soap and water properly.
The right steps are wetting the hands with water, applying soap and then rubbing them for at least 20 seconds, from the palms to the back of the hands, to between and the back
of the fingers, the thumbs, the fingertips and wrists.
The process is concluded by rinsing the hands with water and drying them.
People should also be aware of the alcohol content of hand sanitisers as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States suggests people use products with
60-95 percent alcohol so bacteria is killed.
Szeto also said people should check the labels on sanitisers and select products containing ethanol while avoiding those with isopropanol.
Isopropanol does not evaporate rapidly and will stay on the skin for a longer period of time. It gets into the dermis if there is a skin breakage and would result in dermatitis.
Normally, he said, an inflammation will be brought under control by using steroid cream for a short period and applying emollient to moisturise the skin.
The Environmental Working Group in the United States said fragrances can cause allergies and dermatitis, and may even affect the reproductive system.
Humectants can be polluted by the carcinogen 1,4-dioxide, which can cause cancer in the liver, lung, skin and gallbladder.
On a related note, William Yu Yuen-ping (余遠騁), chief executive of the World Green Organisation (世界綠色組織), urged people to reduce the use of wet wipes as they cannot be
recycled and are non-biodegradable.
“If a wet wipe goes into the sea it will release microplastics and worsen marine pollution,” he said. “We suggest people wash their hands with hand soap and water, or to
clean the skin with a wet towel.
“Besides reducing the impact to the environment, people can also reduce the chance of coming into contact with chemicals, which would be a win-win situation for people’s
health and the environment.”
The green group added that a wet wipe does not decompose in a sewage system.
(This article is published on the Student Standard on 24 May 2019)