Americans all talk, no action when it comes to handwashing : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Monday September 18 2:51 PM ET

Americans all talk, no action when it comes to handwashing


By Keith Mulvihill

TORONTO (Reuters Health) - While you may be kidding yourself about how often you wash your hands, you are not pulling the wool over the eyes of scientists at the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) in Washington, DC.

According to their most recent survey, 95% of men and women say they wash their hands after using a public restroom, yet only 67% of people actually do wash their hands before leaving the restroom.

The study, which was sponsored by the ASM in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, included both a telephone survey and an observational survey. Members of the research team went undercover into public restrooms in various cities including New York, Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans and San Francisco, and noted who was washing up after using the bathroom.

After observing nearly 8,000 men and women in public restrooms, the investigators got on the telephone and interviewed about 1,000 people about their handwashing habits.

``On the phone, 9 out of 10 people told our researchers that they wash their hands, but undercover observers found that only6 out of 10 people wash their hands after using a public bathroom,'' Judy Daly, a spokesperson for the ASM, told Reuters Health.

People in Atlanta and New York were least likely to wash up, and men were less likely to take time with soap and water than women were. Those living in Chicago were most likely to wash up.

``Handwashing is one of the best interventions there is currently to help reduce people from being infected with microbes,'' Daly said. Before you prepare food or drink water and after you cuddle with the family pet, you should head straight to the sink and wash up, according to Daly.

``All you have to do is take some soap and water and a little hand rubbing--do that for about (15 seconds) to protect yourself,'' Daly told Reuters Health.

As an added incentive, Daly warns that drug-resistant microbes are increasingly on the rise. More microbes lurking in our environment are becoming resistant to antibiotics, so if you happen to become infected, the treatments are less effective.

``What we are most concerned about is microorganisms that are increasingly resistant to the treatment that we have, like antibiotics. We want to break the cycle of passing these microbes to ourselves so we can reduce the infection and that means we can reduce the use of antibiotics,'' she said.

Other common bugs that can have stomach-churning effects include Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and Shigella, and handwashing can reduce your exposure to these as well.

Drying your hands is also an important step, Daly noted. Data suggests that there may be some advantage to using disposable towels, in that the friction between hands and the paper may rub off additional microbes.

Overall, handwashing habits have not changed much since the ASM's last survey in 1996, Daly added.

``We are concerned about that,'' she said. ``If people practice good handwashing technique, they can protect themselves from infection.''

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), September 18, 2000


I was right.

-- (HowardHughs@Las.Vegas), September 18, 2000.

To wash or not to wash? LINK

September 9, 2000 NEW ORLEANS (AP) - So is soap ever a good thing for bacteria? A new study has found that nearly half of all hand and bar soaps contain anti-bacterial ingredients, putting numbers to a trend which some experts say could be killing harmless germs and contributing to the spread of hard-to-kill bad germs. ``With more commercial soaps containing anti-bacterials, bacteria may become resistant to these soaps, and the speed with which the resistance develops is likely related to the amount used by the public,'' said Dr. Eli Perencevich, lead author of the study. The study was presented this week to the Infectious Disease Society of America. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center based their findings on visits to 23 stores in Boston and Baltimore, where they examined more than 1,000 types of soap and found that 45 percent contained bacteria-killing materials. Dr. Stuart Levy of the Alliance for Prudent Use of Antibiotics has been cautioning against the overuse of antibacterial products for years. ``Anti-bacterial soaps and lotions should be reserved for the sick patients, not the healthy household,'' he said. Soap makers dispute the claims, saying that over-prescribing of antibiotics by doctors is to blame for the rise of drug-resistant strains of bacteria. Another study presented to the IDSA shows that doctors have cut back sharply on antibiotic prescriptions since 1995, when the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and other medical groups began a campaign to educate doctors and patients about the danger of over- prescribing. Over the same period, anti-bacterial products have become big business. Janet Donohue, a spokeswoman for The Soap and Detergent Association, said the group didn't keep exact figures on sales of anti-bacterials but she believed such products now make up about $1 billion of the $2.2 billion hand and body wash market. Her group and the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association have set up a joint Web site - - to address issues about soaps and anti-bacterial ingredients. Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

-- r (, September 19, 2000.

I also read another article that found when someone else is in the rest room, people are more likely to wash up then when no one is there. If true, that would make that 6 out 10 number even lower.

To wash or not to wash. I do wash after use. But I tend to think that this "anti-bacterial" thing has gone a little too far. When my kids were new borns (like just days old) I took them everywhere with me. I figured they needed to be "exposed" in order to develop immunities. They all turned out fine. Not claiming this is for everyone but obviously I didn't follow the rules of the older generation such as not having visitors, sterlizing bottles, wearing masks...

-- Maria (, September 19, 2000.

Once upon a time, while attending a scientific research convention, I found myself in the company of some of the world's most brilliant intellectuals while using the men's room.

As I zipped up my fly and began to walk toward the door, the man waiting behind me remarked in a somewhat snobbish tone...

"You know, at Harvard they taught us to wash our hands after relieving ourselves".

I replied...

"That's odd, at Penn State they taught us not to piss all over our hands".

-- (don't@be.anal), September 19, 2000.


-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), September 19, 2000.

"That was so funny I forgot to laugh." Thank you, Mr. Reubens.

Penn Staters are nicknamed the Nitwit-iny Lions for a reason. Surely the above poster is a product of that institution. Coach Paterno would be proud.

Common sense is an uncommon trait. Wash your damn hands ya morons.

-- Bingo1 (, September 19, 2000.

These folks who didn't wash their hands obviously didn't have MY mother. She made us wash our hands ALL the time. Now I come home from school and wash my hands, come home from the store and wash my hands, wash my hands before I touch ANY food, etc. etc.

Handwashing after using the toilet is engrained in me. I laugh at myself every morning, but the routine is toilet first, shower second...but I go to the sink and wash my hands before getting into the shower. That makes no sense to me, but I can't stop myself.

I agree with you, Maria about the infants. I was home within 12 hours with mine and they were at the grocery store with me. My aunt told me I was crazy [exposing them to all those germs so soon.]

At school we only have 10 minutes between classes, and I've not yet seen anyone who didn't stop to wash their hands before leaving the bathroom, no matter HOW far they had to walk to their next class.

-- Anita (, September 19, 2000.

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