COVID-19: Critical discussion on the applications and implications of chemicals in sanitizers and disinfectants

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Olubunmi Atolani
Mariam Temitope Baker
Oluyomi Stephen Adeyemi
Ismaeel Ridwan Olanrewaju
Abdulmumeen A. Hamid
Oluduowo M. Ameen
Stephen O. Oguntoye
Lamidi A. Usman


The anxiety and trauma associated with the tragic coronavirus disease pandemic coded, COVID-19 led many to indulge in various unorthodox preventive measures such as the extensive indiscriminate use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (ABHS), abuse, misuse, overdose of prescription drugs like chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine phosphate globally. While some preventive measures are recommended and adopted, such as national lockdown, self-isolation, quarantine, stay-at-home model, avoidance of large gathering, social distancing, wearing of face-masks and hand gloves, periodic hand washing particularly with liquid soaps/detergents under running tap water, avoidance of touching the face among others, the use of ABHS has been more prominent. ABHS contains on average 60-70 % by weight of one or more alcohols. During the 2019/2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the use of ABHS was more renowned to the extent that some individuals recommended the application on the hands every 30 minutes for a period of at least 20 seconds while outside the home. Though, the periodic application of the hand sanitizers seems like an effective on-the-go solution to preventing the spread of the virus, many other associated hazards call for caution. Besides transdermal absorption leading to mortality and morbidity of varying degree; alcohol-alcohol adulteration, deliberate and unintentional ingestion of ABHS may result in respiratory depression, irreversible blindness, intoxication, cirrhosis, acidosis, headache, central nervous system depression, seizure, hypoglycemia, coma, or even death in some cases. The non-ABHS are equally not absolutely safe as many of them contain active agents that are allegedly carcinogenic, toxic, inducing microbial resistance and endocrine disruption. Considered together, this implies that while some may not die from contracting the disease, the preventive measures taken could lead to death or other forms of morbidity thereby revealing that there is indeed, death in preventive measures when done without cautionary measures. This study seeks to highlight some associated risks in the use of ABHS and non-ABHS, whilst advocating the use of safer or ‘greener’ alternative procedure for use as preventive measures particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Atolani, O., Baker, M. T., Adeyemi, O. S., Olanrewaju, I. R., Hamid, A. A., Ameen, O. M., Oguntoye, S. O., & Usman, L. A. (2020). COVID-19: Critical discussion on the applications and implications of chemicals in sanitizers and disinfectants. EXCLI Journal, 19, 785-799.
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