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Is hand sanitizer making you fat?

There's a whole new kind of germ warfare on the horizon, and it may be sabotaging your workout.

Movies like Contagion and headline-grabbing bacterias like MRSA don’t help assuage fears of rampant germ proliferation, but if you tend to reach for the hand sanitizer every time you touch an elevator button, doorknob, or dumbbell, curb your enthusiasm. There’s good reason to take it easy with these chemical-laden germ killers. They frequently contain triclosan, a chemical that many consider to be an obesogen — i.e. one that can potentially cause weight gain by disrupting the body’s endocrine system.

“Animal studies indicate that triclosan can affect thyroid function,” says Tom Zoeller, an endocrinologist and Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “And it’s plausible that triclosan can interfere with thyroid hormones in people, though it’s not been well studied.” The chemical structure of triclosan is similar to that of thyroid hormone itself — one reason it could interfere with the body’s natural levels. Thyroid hormones control metabolism, so if you reduce thyroid function you can gain weight. Not a situation you want to inadvertently create in the process of trying to stay healthy, fit, and germ-free.

To cut down on exposure, wash your hands with good old soap (not the anti-bacterial variety, which often contain triclosan, too) and water whenever possible, and choose a healthier triclosan-free sanitizer when on the go. These, below, kill germs with natural, botanical agents:

artemis alcohol-free foaming hand sanitizer

Serious-sounding sanitizing comes from this “USA FDA category III compliant” germ zapper. The moisturizing formula kills the highest percentage of E. coli, MRSA, and other common germs. Translation for you: Healthier, softer hands.
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burt’s bees aloe & witch hazel hand sanitizer

The witch hazel acts as an antiseptic, while the aloe moisturizers. The combo obliterates 99.99% of germs — you can’t get much better than that.
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clean george hand purifier

A synthetic-free spray of manuka and tea tree oils eliminate germs but not good bacteria from your skin. A three-pack of Grapefruit n’ Sage, Lovin’ Lavender, and Mint-alyptus keeps you scented and sanitary.
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honest hand sanitizer

Safe for babies, kids, and you, this gel from Jessica Alba’s natural products company has an alcohol base (thickened with vegetable glycerin and wood cellulose) plus aloe and vitamin E, but no harsh chemicals.
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clean well wipes

Individual-use totables that rely on oil extracted from the thyme plant rather than triclosan to kill germs — and they’re safe for the face, too. Stick them in your gym bag and occasionally use them to wipe down your grimy phone.
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