Alcohol-based hand rub ( ABHR )


The existence of “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” causing “COVID-19” or “coronavirus disease 19” as a pandemic, exploded into the world. The attention turned towards personal hygiene as a line of defense for the infection controls. Including not only from the coronavirus but also other infectious diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, tuberculosis and polio. Even though hand washing with soap and water is the preferred way to clean hands, hand sanitizers or an alcohol-based hand rub( ABHR) became recommended when clean water and soap are not available.


People’s anxiety from the pandemic meant people were purchasing outsized quantities of ABHR . Far beyond the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA. We are literally living and breathing alcohol-based hand rubs (ABHR). Over a number of years, exposure through inhalation and dermal contact may lead to possible health effects related to unintentional passive alcoholization. There hasn’t been enough research of the effects on real world situation use of ABHR on the various demographics, including high risk individuals.

The other effect is environmental. People are buying large amounts but they are also pouring away large amounts.

In extreme condition of hospital situations, based upon an average of 30 hand rubbings per healthcare professional per day, a healthcare worker may be exposed to a maximum 5,500 mg/m3 per work shift. This is five times above the recommended occupational time weighted average limit.


To understand ABHR’s more, they contain one or more alcohols including ethanol, n-propanol and isopropanol. Ethanol, n-propanol and isopropanol are the most volatile compounds. 54% of commercially available alcohol products are made up by two different alcohols ( Figure below) and ethanol and isopropanol are the most used components

Breakdown of the different Alcohol-based Hand Rub ( ABHR ) formulations https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2954566/#b26-ijerph-07-03038.

Ethanol is used almost equally in the formulation of the four categories of ABHRs, depending on the number of alcohols. Isopropanol is mainly used in the single alcohol category. Other active ingredients of an alcohol-based hand rub, such as chlorhexidine or triclosan may be added to ensure a residual antimicrobial activity Alternatives of alcohol-free hand hygiene products containing benzalkonium chloride or chlorhexidine have been proposed. A few studies have reported however that these products are less effective in preventing cross-transmission of pathogens.


Alcohols generally have low acute toxicity by all routes of exposure. The critical effect is the irritation of respiratory system, eyes, and mucous membranes. Higher concentrations may cause central nervous system effects including dizziness, nausea, hypotension, and hypothermia. 

Always be wary of an Alcohol-Based Hand Rub that contain methanol and 1-propanol. They have toxic effects.

Effect of Alcohol-based Hand Rub( ABHR ) body absorption
  • Methanol is a type of alcohol you definitely shouldn’t drink. Also called “wood alcohol” or “methyl alcohol,” it’s mostly used to make fuels, solvents, and antifreeze. It’s colorless, volatile, highly flammable, and it’s poisonous if consumed. 
  • 1-propanol is a multi-purpose solvent used in industry, as well as in some cosmetics and antiseptics. Highly flammable, it’s dangerous to your eyes and harmful if swallowed. Inhalation can cause respiratory irritation and affect your central nervous system.


The cleaning industry has had little time to think about the physical issues. Yes, Alcohol-Based Hand Rubs ( ABHR) are effective, but on top of the chemicals that may be used in our surroundings for disinfection, are we providing the best environment for everyone around us? The logistical nightmare of having to dispose of unwanted chemicals may prove an expensive problem. You most certainly would not want these chemicals poured down our drains carelessly.

If you poured a significant amount of alcohol-based sanitizer down the drain, you’d be introducing enough flammable-vapour generating liquid into the local drainage system to blow the drain covers off and away into the air. 


According to hazardouswasteexperts.com, the proper disposal of unwanted hand sanitizer can be achieved with traditional hazardous waste disposal methods, however, traditional hazardous waste disposal is not the only option.

  • Fuel blending. The purposeful mixing of different waste streams to induce specific chemical reactions is a recognized treatment method for hazardous waste. This is called fuel blending, wherein such chemical reactions might be instigated to neutralize the hazardous waste material. Typically, this is done to make the waste less dangerous and thereby easier to store, transport, and ultimately dispose of. But in the case of unwanted hand sanitizer, fuel blending is a way to recover the constituent alcohol and transform it into an energy source that can be used or sold.
  • Incidental reduction. This refers to the situation wherein you combine waste streams with no intention of creating a specific chemical reaction, but the resulting mixture no longer exhibits the same physical or chemical characteristics as did the individual wastes prior to your mixing them. In such a situation, the resulting waste will still need to be treated for the individual wastes that were consolidated—even if a chemical analysis proves that one or more waste characteristics have been eliminated in the consolidation process.

At all costs, we want to avoid excessive use of chemicals ( read more about AIRGUARD) and OTSAW can provide a more holistic approach with the use of UV-C LED disinfection. Our patented technology has been lab-tested on many types of bacteria as well as human coronavirus bacteria. 

To read more about our UV-C LED disinfection technology, click here

For more details contact cecilia@otsaw.com

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