It’s old news at this point, thanks to COVID-19: you need to wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer to protect yourself from the coronavirus. Most grocery stores even provide disinfecting wipes or sanitizer squirt bottles at the door to wipe down your cart handle and some employees even do the dirty work for you. What protects you from the tools needed to guard against infection?
Hand sanitizer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be from a safety standpoint. On the low end of the health spectrum it has the ability to dry out your skin. On the opposite end, it can cause serious burn injuries requiring medical attention and might even cause a permanent injury.
What’s in hand sanitizer?
The ingredient list for hand sanitizer tends to be fairly short. Many people have realized just how little you need after learning to make their own in recent months. However, manufactured hand sanitizer may be a shade different from what you whip up in your kitchen.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the same basic active ingredient in these disinfectants is alcohol, which may be comprised of either ethyl alcohol or isopropanol.
Where recipes can differ is the inactive ingredients, which may include:
- Aloe vera gel
- Essential oils
- Propylene glycol
- Tocopherol acetate
- Isopropyl myristate
Surprising chemical reactions
That trusty hand sanitizer we have all become so familiar with using at every turn contains chemicals that need to be mixed properly and in measured quantities in order to safely dilute them with each squirt. Whether you purchase commercially produced hand sanitizer or you make your own, the FDA has warned about the potential risks of skin burns you need to be aware of.
- Improper mixing. A seven-year-old child in Texas received second degree chemical burns to his face in June after a grocery store shopping cart was wiped down with improperly diluted hand sanitizer that made the product dangerous. The child came in contact with the solution while sitting in the shopping cart.
- Essential oil burns. These oils have been used to add a pleasing or relaxing aroma to everything from shampoo and room deodorizers to skincare products and yes, hand sanitizer. These oils are typically portrayed as harmless and even good for your wellbeing but they can cause chemical burns to skin. This reaction can occur based on the particular oil itself, like oregano oil, or by these oils merely coming into contact with ultraviolet light or heat. Despite not applying directly to your skin, diffusing essential oils can also cause burns if the vapor comes in contact with your skin, which then gets near a heat source. This is pretty easy to do given the diffusers propel the oil into the air.
Depending upon whether they’re on the low or high end of the spectrum, second degree burns can take an average of one to three weeks to heal and are incredibly painful. Antibiotic ointment is needed to protect the open skin from infection and victims typically take pain medication during initial recovery. These burns are also known to leave behind permanent scarring.
Traditional burns are also a concern
Some flames burn so hot that they turn blue or go invisible. When it comes to hand sanitizer giving off vapor, these flames can ignite just by standing too close to a heat source. There have been increasing reports of individuals barbecuing outdoors or lighting a match and the vapors given off by the hand sanitizer spark into catastrophic injuries.
The primary active ingredient in this health product is flammable alcohol. As alcohol dries, it dissipates into the air as an invisible trail around the area of application.
Victims have reported suffering burn injuries
A worker touching a metal surface initiating a static electric charge that ignited the vapor. This work injury resulted in first and second degree burns when the invisible flame engulfed his hands. Even warnings of the potential for a flash-back to occur have been given to workers trying to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
At particularly high risk are construction worksites and mechanical service jobs where flames can also spark from:
- Use of electrical tools and equipment
- Arcs and hot metal surfaces from welding and cutting
- Smoking tobacco products
- Portable torches and heating units, boilers, pilot lights, ovens and driers
- Grinding and crushing operations
If you or a loved one has been injured due to using hand sanitizer or another dangerously flammable product, you may want to consider pursuing a civil suit to recover your out-of-pocket damages along with compensating you for your pain and suffering. We aggressively fight to safeguard your case and ensure you receive the fair treatment you are entitled to under the law.
To schedule your free consultation in our office with experienced Tulsa burn injury lawyer Jacob Biby, call Biby Law Firm today at 918.416.6351 or reach out to us through our contact form to tell us your story.
Jacob Biby has spent his legal career helping folks just like you get the resources they need after an injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 2008. Jacob is licensed to practice in all Oklahoma state and federal courts, and has limited his career to representing individuals and families who were injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Learn more about Jacob Biby.