Amid concerns over the new coronavirus outbreak, many Americans are buying and stocking up on hand sanitizers, leaving some store shelves bare. Many “temporarily out of stock” notices appear on a quick search for hand sanitizers at Target and CVS websites.
GOJO Industries, a manufacturing company known for its Purell hand sanitizers, is keeping up with the increased demand. Samantha Williams, GOJO’s Corporate Communications Senior Director, wrote in an email to The Epoch Times: “We have a surge preparedness team that runs in the background all the time, who have been fully activated and are coordinating our response to the increase in demand.”
Williams also wrote GOJO maintains “flexible production capacity and extra inventory” able to meet increases in demand.
With the high demand for hand sanitizers and recent news headlines on the topic, it may seem like there is a shortage. But that’s not the case according to Alex Brown, spokesperson for Walgreens. “We’re currently maintaining supplies of hand sanitizers,” said Brown to The Epoch Times. “[We’ll] continue to work with our supplier partners to best meet the needs of our customers.”
Brown also clarified that Walgreens has never stated that “there was going to be a shortage of hand sanitizers,” referring to a CNN article.
CVS had a similar message. “We are working with our suppliers to meet customer demand for hand sanitizers,” Joe Goode, senior director of Corporate Communications said in an email to The Epoch Times. “This demand may cause temporary shortages of these products at some store locations and we are re-supplying those stores as quickly as possible.”
Sales of hand sanitizers have increased 202 percent year-on-year between January 2019 and January 2020 according to an Adweek article. Also, in January alone, online sales of hand sanitizers and disinfectants were more than any other month in the past year.
Effectiveness of Hand Sanitizers
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it’s recommended to use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content if soap and water are not available.
Not all hand sanitizers work the same. Hand sanitizers without “[ethyl] alcohol in them or they use other synthetic things like benzalkonium are not nearly as effective,” said Emily Landon, executive medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Chicago Medicine, to The Epoch Times.
The active ingredient in alcohol-free hand sanitizers is benzalkonium chloride, which is less effective in eliminating germs, bacteria, and viruses.
Hand sanitizers with triclosan should not be used and are no longer recommended. Landon said triclosan is an antibiotic that can be absorbed through the skin and that “you don’t want low levels of random antibiotics floating around in your bloodstream and that’s not going to kill the virus anyway.”
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that is used in various products like hand sanitizers, toothpaste, soaps, certain clothes, and toys. It has also been used as a pesticide.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a rule in 2016 to stop the use of triclosan and triclocarban in soaps and body washes since manufacturers were not able to prove the chemicals’ safety and effectiveness. There were also concerns about potential antibiotic resistance and hormonal effects with long-term use of triclosan.
As for triclosan in hand sanitizers, the FDA did not issue a final rule until April 2019. However, some manufacturers had already started phasing out triclosan from their hand sanitizers after the 2016 rule.
Many hand sanitizer users may not be aware that they are not properly applying the sanitizer for it to optimally work. Applying a small amount and rubbing it on the palms of the hands, or wiping it off before it has dried, will not allow the sanitizer to do its job.
“You need to have enough of it,” said Landon. “You need to have enough that you need to rub your hands together for 15-20 seconds. And you want to get all the surfaces of your fingers, in between your fingers, your fingertips, and your thumbs.”
As convenient as hand sanitizers are, they should not be a replacement for washing your hands with soap and water. The CDC states that the most important hand hygiene technique to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Hand washing is recommended over hand sanitizers when hands are visibly soiled, greasy, have touched harmful chemicals, before eating, and after going to the restroom.