Hand Sanitizers - Good or Bad?
Debate Rounds (3)
My opponent has made 4 arguments, 3 of which I will dispute. His arguments are as follows:
1- Hand sanitizer are excellent in killing bacteria and keeping infections at bay.
2- The usage of hand sanitizers seems to have severely handicapped the human immune system.
3- The immune system stays healthy and active by constant exposure to various types of micro-organisms through a process known as natural immunity.
4- (Through the extended use of hand sanitizers), your immunity will be so crippled that any micro-organism that touches you can infect you and your body will not be strong enough to defend itself.
Let me first affirm his first argument with some facts:
-Most instant hand sanitizers, like Purell, use 62% or more pure ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol. Alcohol rub sanitizers kill most bacteria, fungi and some viruses. Alcohol rub sanitizers containing at least 70% alcohol, kill 99.9% of the bacteria on hands 30 seconds after application and 99.99% to 99.999% in one minute. 
Now, on to my contentions:
2- There is no reason to believe my opponent's statement. The Center for Disease Control claims that "keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others." Many diseases and germs are spread through the lack of proper hand hygiene. The CDC recommends that when it is not convenient, or when you are not able to wash your hands with soap and water you should use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 
3- Natural immunity: n the inherited ability to remain resistant to or unaffected by a specific disease.  According to the dictionary definition of natural immunity, this is a resistance acquired through birth. Natural immunity has nothing to do with exposure to germs. The type of immunity that is acquired through exposure is called "active immunity."
Because hand sanitizers are only supposed to be used when hands are not visibly dirty, and only when hand washing is not possible, there is no reason to believe they affect the body's natural ability to acquire active immunity.
4- As already stated, there is no reason to believe using hand sanitizers lowers your immunity. There is no correlation between proper hygiene, and lowered immunity. The concept just does not make sense. In fact, there are tons of data to the contrary:
-Hand sanitizers are effective in reducing gastrointestinal illnesses in households.
-Hand sanitizer use lowers absentee rates in elementary schools.
-Hand sanitizer use has been proven to lower illness rates in university dormitories.
According to the World Health Organization:
"Each year, hundreds of millions of patients around the world are affected by health care-associated infections (HCAI). Although HCAI is the most frequent adverse event in health-care, its true global burden remains unknown because of the difficulty in gathering reliable data."
"Most health care-associated infections are preventable through good hand hygiene – cleaning hands at the right times and in the right way."
In conclusion, hand sanitizers in fact are excellent in killing bacteria, and keeping infections at bay. There is no reason to believe, or even suggest that the use of hand sanitizers has severely handicapped the human immune system. The immune system does develop active immunity through exposure to many germs, but the use of hand sanitizers does not have a negative impact on active immunity. In fact, the use of hand sanitizers promotes health and well being. Because there is no evidence to suggest the use of hand sanitizers adversely affects human immunity, and an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, there is also no reason to believe hand sanitizers cripple the immune system to the point of imposing any type of human immuno-deficiency syndrome. When considering the evidence hand sanitizers are not only good, but in some cases are better than hand washing alone.
Here are my notes as why I am against hand sanitizers.
1. We do not have a difference in opinion about the effectiveness of hand sanitizers!
2. Points 2 and 4 are very similar and on the same line hence discussions on point 4.
3. Thank you for pointing out the accurate terminology. I would go further adding that, Natural Passive Immunity is the inherited immunity and Natural Active Immunity is acquired through infections, which we are more concerned about in this discussion!
4. Before I contest my views on why the immune system might/will get crippled due to constant usage of Hand sanitizers - There are a few basic concepts about Immunity I need to share.
The human immune system (after birth) works in a reactive style. I.e. when a foreign body (microbe) enters your body, they generate specific resistance towards the microbe! That's why it's called 'Adaptive Immune system'. Creating customized antigen - receptors for the lymphocytes for every type of pathogen that enters the body can sound a massive task. But the process by which it is done is called 'Somatic hyper mutation' and somatic recombination.
With that said, considering the reactive nature of immune system I would hypothesize that the more pathogens the human body encounters, the more varied (and hence stronger) is the human immune system.
Now, with excessive usage of strong hand sanitizers we are definitely cutting down the type and number of germs that gains access to our human body. The result? As intended, we have stopped most of the germs from entering the human body and hence a safer life!
But imagine if we have not used the hand sanitizer;
- these germs will gain access to body and
- one type of them will probably cause a full infection cycle and make us fall sick.
- But by the time we recover from the sickness, we'd have acquired immunity to the strain that caused the full infection cycle and also the other strains of microbes that entered the body!
The debatable question here is "Is sickness worth the acquired immunity?" - I vote yes, coz I'd rather fall sick to a microbe now, than when am older and (god forbid) incapable of taking care of myself.
I completely agree to the facts that hand sanitizers have played an important role in reducing household illnesses, lowering absentee rates in schools, universities and even at every other work place. But I think the price we pay for it is too much, considering that the over use of hand sanitizers hinder the learning process of the Immune system by shielding us from pathogens.
5. Addition: I am not completely against the use of Hand sanitizers! I wash my hands with Ethanol before/after handling bio hazard materials in Immunology lab! I am not against doctors who use hand sanitizers when they encounter multiple patients with multiple illnesses. But utilizing in other general areas is an over-kill.
Do note that according to Darwin's theory of Natural Selection; we are breeding alcohol resistant bugs by inhibiting the ones that react to alcohol. Those will probably be strains of Viruses or fungi. Eventually the current hand sanitizers will become ineffective as almost all the dominant strains out in the wild will become alcohol resistant.
This is similar to the history of anti-biotic. The 4th generation anti-biotic (mezlocillin sodium, piperacillin) are more potent and has a broader spectrum than the first generation antibiotics (First-Generation).
The more we improve the antibiotics, the more the pathogens evolve. Or I should say, the evolved and hence adapted Pathogens survive and proliferate. In effect, we are breeding super bugs for the future generations.
6. From history, "Virgin soil epidemic" would be a very good example to cite here,
An example to illustrate the importance of Active acquired immunity.
Conclusively, I'd like to say that am not totally against Hand sanitizers, but they should be used by the ones who need it and not the general population. Our actions are directly helping the bugs evolve faster and stronger. But the very same actions are working against human evolution - as a biological creature that also needs to survive and adapt. This is simply too much price we are paying for a 'healthy safe today'. Hand sanitizers might be beneficial for a person today, but in the bigger picture of evolution, it's just another grave we are digging for ourselves.
I again thank the opponent for the inputs. Nothing' s as refreshing as a good discussion.
1- The use of hand sanitizers prevent or significantly lessen the beneficial process of natural active immunity.
2- The constant use of hand sanitizers will cripple the human immune system.
My opponent supports his arguments with statements such as the following, which I will tie to a point and rebut. I will dispute only those points which I feel deserve the most contention, given the lack of evidence and rational reason for belief accompanying many of his arguments:
"With that said, considering the reactive nature of immune system I would hypothesize that the more pathogens the human body encounters, the more varied (and hence stronger) is the human immune system."
-This is taking a very simplistic view of the human immune system, the process of natural active immunity, proper hand sanitizer use, the purpose of hand sanitizers, and rational expectations from a rational society and populace. This statement is no more a true scientific hypothesis than it is a guess based on this simplistic view. I shall elaborate.
For my opponent's statement to be true, we must first consider the many millions, if not billions of species of pathogens that can enter the human body in various forms. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis A, B, and C, Syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, human papiloma virus- these are all pathogens. They enter the body, and the body does not build a natural defense against them. There are many more pathogens that can be acquired by mere contact that the body does not form a natural defense for. In fact, as many as 25 pathogens may be present in the blood of an average human. Considering that some of these pathogens can, in and of themselves, severely cripple the human immune system, my opponent's hypothesis is severely flawed, to say the least. My opponent's simplistic story of acquired immunity is misguided. We inoculate ourselves every year to prevent the spread of flu, and yet we never become immune. The spread of flu is also slowed by washing hands, and using hand sanitizers- the latter more likely in public where one is more susceptible.
Many disorders cause the body to lose it's natural ability of adaptive immunity such as immunodeficiency and immunosuppression. Many things we do can strengthen or weaken our immune system. Living a healthy lifestyle, exercising, eating foods high in vitamins and minerals- these are things that strengthen your immune system. Exposure to pathogens does not "strengthen" your immune system. Exposure to (some) pathogens we can become naturally immune to, by my opponent's own account, will make you sick. Keeping your hands clean, killing these pathogens, and preventing exposure does not weaken your immune system. At best, it delays your exposure. Unless my opponent can suggest and provide evidence to how a lack of exposure to pathogens actually weakens the immune system, again, this argument is flawed.
"But I think the price we pay for it is too much, considering that the over use of hand sanitizers hinder the learning process of the Immune system by shielding us from pathogens."
- Here, my opponent makes a statement that should essentially cripple the rest of his argument. Here my opponent states that "over use of hand sanitizers hinder(s) the learning process of the immune system by shielding us from pathogens." While my opponent agrees to facts, he ponders them based on his own elaborations of the facts, rather than on more facts. Hand sanitizers do not "shield us from pathogens" any more than normal hygiene does. Hand sanitizers are intended to enhance normal hygiene. What my opponent refers to as "over use" of hand sanitizers can be labeled a mental disease- obsessive compulsive disorder. Even if my opponent could prove that over use of hand sanitizers would result in proving his hypothesis, he would still have to prove how OCD is not to blame for that over use, rather than the product itself. It's the old argument that alcohol is bad because it makes alcoholics, or that the abused is at fault rather than the abuser.
"we are breeding alcohol resistant bugs by inhibiting the ones that react to alcohol."
-Here, my opponent makes another claim based entirely on his understanding of science, and not on actual science. First of all, if a pathogen is going to build resistance against alcohol, what would be the danger to the human if that danger was not there to begin with? Becoming resistant to alcohol would not make the pathogen "stronger", only more resistant to alcohol. What is the correlation between resistance and danger? Another flaw in this argument is that it wouldn't matter if the pathogen becomes resistant to alcohol if the alternative is not using alcohol to clean your hands. Furthermore, his theory contradicts many of the sources I've already put up concerning pathogens building resistance to alcohol. That is "why" alcohol is used- it evaporates faster lessening the exposure of alcohol to pathogens. Even so, the ethanol kills 99.999% of the pathogens present. Any germs still present after the use were either introduced after the alcohol evaporated, or were not exposed to alcohol for a significant enough amount of time in to build resistance.
My opponent then goes on to make an argument against anti-biotics. To be clear- alcohol based hand sanitizers are NOT anti-biotics. I would request that my opponent provide some basis for his many seemingly baseless arguments. You can't "assume" something to be true in one instance simply because you know it to be true in another. I doubt you would argue for the discontinued use of anti-biotics, but I digress...
In conclusion, my opponent has not effectively proven his case. He has suggested, opined, and posited, but he has not proven, or even attempted to prove the majority of his claims. He has changed his position from the following:
"the usage (of hand sanitizers) seem to have severely handicapped the Human Immune System"
-Which he has not proven. He has provided no evidence, and has only hypothesized based on a simple understanding of the human immune system.
"The Immune system stays healthy and active by constant exposure to various types of micro-organisms"
- Which is untrue. The human immune system stays healthy by keeping the body healthy and free from destructive diseases and syndromes. There is no rational reason to believe the immune system needs to be exposed to pathogens in order to stay healthy.
"Over extended time frames, your immunity will be so crippled that any micro-organism that touches you can infect you and your body will not be strong enough to Defend itself."
"Conclusively, I'd like to say that am not totally against Hand sanitizers"
"Addition: I am not completely against the use of Hand sanitizers! I wash my hands with Ethanol before/after handling bio hazard materials in Immunology lab!"
And so on. My opponent already seems to have conceded the original debate, and is trying to salvage the debate by changing his premise. Hand sanitizers are not bad. They do not cripple the immune system. The use of hand sanitizers is highly encouraged by the CDC whenever hand washing is not possible or convenient, and whenever exposure to pathogens not killed with hand washing has occurred. I use hand sanitizers daily, and I am the healthiest person in my family. I am also the one that is more often exposed to pathogens due to my work. If anything, I protect my babies from what I have been exposed to by keeping my hands clean.
http://www.purell.com... (though this source is from a hand sanitizer manufacturer, it cites CDC sources I have already posted
kathironline2003 forfeited this round.
Mangani forfeited this round.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Round #2 by Pro was an effective rebuttal and strong argument.
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