Hand Sanitizer: A New Concern?

by Vanessa Douglas on April 26, 2012

There are plenty of things in the world that are detrimental to our health: excessive smoking and drinking, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, etc. While individuals willingly engage in habits that are questionable, drinking hand sanitizer is one of the more outrageous options.

According to an article published in the LA Times, teenagers are now consuming the hand-cleaning agent in order to get drunk. It appears that teens use salt in order to extract the alcohol from the product, which is composed of 62% ethyl alcohol, the type of alcohol commonly used in beverages.

The Times reported that to consume just a small amount of the distilled alcohol, “can cause a person’s speech to slur and stomach to burn, and make people so drunk that they have to be monitored in the emergency room.”

Six teenagers have been sent to emergency rooms in the San Fernando Valley, which alerted officials about the unusual trend. Though there have only been a few reports of alcohol poisoning from drinking hand sanitizer, medical and health officials are concerned that this will become a larger trend. Other inexpensive products, such as mouthwash and cough syrups, have been used in order to “get high” and many fear that hand sanitizer, as a recreational tool, could be problematic.

Helen Arbogast, injury prevention coordinator in the trauma program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, stated that parents should buy foam or gel sanitizer because it is more difficult to distill the alcohol in the product. “When young people are actively and purposely ingesting it, that is when it becomes a real concern,” she said, and also advised parents to monitor the sanitizer like they would any other liquid.

It is always troubling when young individuals engage in harmful behavior, but it is even more alarming when something seemingly innocuous is used in a detrimental way. As a young person, I understand and share the desire to have fun and  be carefree once in a while.I do believe, however, that being knowledgeable and sensible are important as well, and these to ideas do not have to be contradictory.

Hopefully, this odd phenomenon does not become pervasive among youth, and simply becomes a fading, forgotten trend.

Image Source Enggul

Vanessa Douglas

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