Until I ordered some Stream2Sea Spray Hand Sanitizer, I did not know that the reason many hand sanitizers are thick and viscous is because they contain microplastics. Plastics! I decided to do some research on unsafe ingredients found in our newest must-have item for protecting ourselves from sickness and viruses; hand sanitizers, aka antiseptic rubs.
When the hand sanitizer arrived, I was surprised to see it was a spray. The two small bottles each had atomizer-type lids, and there was a spray gun for the larger bottle. A spray – I immediately headed back to the website, because I’ve learned, there’s always a reason for Stream2Sea’s choices.
The description said the hand sanitizer was water thin, and would not foam. I had no idea that was because all the cancer-causing toxins had not been used as ingredients. But I was about to learn – a lot.
My research led me to realize that many hand sanitizers contain Carbomer, Triclosan, Paraben, and synthetic fragrances and preservatives. Stream2Sea do not use those ingredients because there are so many reasons why they are not safe or biodegradable.
With many of us using a lot more hand sanitizer than normal due to the Coronavirus, here’s a rundown on why we should avoid these toxic ingredients in hand sanitizers, as well as other personal hygiene products.
Carbomer listed on the ingredients. I never knew.
Carbomer, or, Polyacrylic acid, is a synthetic thickening agent made from acrylic acid. It is used in many skin products such as facial moisturizers, eye creams, anti-aging treatments, scrubs and cleansers. Styling gel products include carbomers in order to achieve that stiffer consistency.
Polyacrylic acid also can be found in sunscreen shampoos, hair, nail, and makeup products and even teeth cleaning powders and paints as a stabilizer and suspending agent.
Because of Carbomers’ ability to swell and disperse in water to keep liquids from separating, they are used in many personal care products. Although according to the FDA they have a low chance of causing phototoxic or allergic reactions, or skin irritation or sensitivity, some people prefer to avoid plastics for use on their body.
No triclosan listed. Carbomer is listed.
Triclosan is sometimes used in toothpaste, hand sanitizers, and antibacterial soaps. The European Union banned this ingredient as an endocrine disruptor, causing obesity and fertility problems before the US did.
The FDA says high doses of triclosan affect thyroid levels, and possibly aids in bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. Ongoing studies of the safety of triclosan include skin cancer development in animals exposed to triclosan over a long-term. Another study involves triclosan’s possible breakdown into other chemicals after exposure to UV rays when on human skin.
Also, the inclusion of triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes has not been proven by the FDA to have any benefit above than using soap and water. Due to lack of proof of triclosan’s safety and effectiveness, the FDA banned companies from using triclosan and benzethonium chloride in antiseptic rubs – the official name for hand sanitizers – in April of 2019.
“The rule establishes that certain active ingredients are not allowed to be used in OTC hand sanitizers, formally known as topical consumer antiseptic rub products, which are intended for use without water, that are marketed under the FDA’s OTC Drug Review, FDA Issues Final Rule on Safety and Effectiveness of Hand Sanitizers.
No paraben – but carbomer and other unknown ingredients.
Parabens could be another endocrine disruptor, and five varieties of them are banned in many countries, but are still legal in the United States. They have antimicrobial properties that are used to extend the shelf life of personal products.
The European Union banned Parabens in 2015. Breast cancer, skin cancer, and decreased sperm count are some of the problems related to paraben use, as well as fertility and reproductive issues, cancer risk, and affected birth outcomes. It is still used in foundation, lotion, and other beauty products in the US.
Whole Foods and CVS removed several paraben-inclusive products in 2019. Target and Rite Aide eliminated them in 2020. Walgreens will discontinue them by 2021.
Parabens also can kill coral.
Here’s where things got really bad – the list of problems associated with use of products with synthetic fragrances is enormous. They include hormone disruption, allergic reactions, sperm damage, build up in human tissues, cancer, birth defects, nervous system problems, reproductive malformation, breast cancer, liver cancer, obesity, diabetes, and even links between autism, ADHD, and neurological disorders with fetal exposure.
Even products called “fragrance free” may have ingredients to cover unpleasant chemical scents, and the word “fragrance” is used to include ingredients that are accepted as a manufacturer’s “trade secret,” so they are not required to be listed on labels.
Petrochemicals contribute to over 95% of the chemicals in synthetic fragrances. Some petrochemicals are aldehydes and benzene derivatives – that means a compound formed from a similar compound through chemical reaction. These phthalates that cause many of the problems above are found in over 75% of products.
It’s beginning to sound like a broken record – here we find more problems with synthetic preservatives acting as endocrine disruptors, causing contact dermatitis, and neurotoxicity due to being readily absorbed by the skin.
Synthetic preservatives are included to extend the life of products and prevent growth of mold and bacteria. They can release formaldehyde, a known cancer-causing toxin.
Most hand sanitizers come in a single use plastic container. Those plastic containers trouble me; and this season, there will be more single-use plastic containers disposed of than normal.
The spray hand sanitizer from Stream2Sea comes in 97% post-consumer recycled content, like milk jugs, which means it’s already had one use, and this is its second. Sustainable packaging is one of the main reasons I chose the Stream2Sea hand sanitizer. I know I’m going to use a lot this year, and I want to consume in the most ecoconscious manner I can. If you do too, here’s a discount code for you to save 10% off your order: DeepWH.
Safe, Biodegradable Ingredients
Stream2Sea hand sanitizer contains Ethanol 62% v/v, Deionized Water, Glycerin, Eucalyptus Leaf Oil, Camphor, and Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E). That’s it – natural, safe, biodegradable ingredients.
The Frightening Backstory
Mid-March, Stream2Sea owner, chemist, and chief bottle washer Autumn Blum saw piles of cancelled orders from cruise line sales at the same time as grocery shelves were being stripped bare of basic necessities due to the advance of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
“It was pretty scary watching our projections go right out the window, and wondering how I was going to cover payroll and overhead,” she wrote on the company blog, with the headline, “I created a hand sanitizer amidst COVID-19 and might have saved my company in the process.”
Regulatory hurdles from the federal government eased, and she decided to introduce hand sanitizer to her ecoconscious, reef-safe line of sunscreen, shampoo and conditioner, and even mask defog.
Most hand sanitizers have ingredients which are toxic to marine microorganisms; but Stream2Sea’s contains ingredients are safe for the Earth and humans. The hand sanitizer spray uses a natural antiviral, camphor, with the 62% ethanol recommended by the US government.
“This means no toxic triclosan or carbomer, formaldehyde releasers, which are common preservatives, nor synthetic colors, denaturants or fragrances,” Blum wrote.
She added, “I thought our sanitizer would be well received, but had no idea that it would be THIS well received.”
Not only filling a huge need of the moment to protect human lives, but also saving her company and transforming her crew into essential workers for an essential service; now Blum is saving more than the reefs.
Cats seem to love the camphor and eucalyptus. The author’s cats had a spat over it.