Dirty Truth Revealed; Hand Washing Often Avoided
By James Donahue
Something that has irked me for a long time now has been the failure by men observed
leaving public restrooms without stopping to wash their hands.
As a former biology student, the son of a research chemist, husband of a medical
technologist and a survivor of a fifth grade experience where our teacher was a fanatic for cleanliness, I have been keenly
aware throughout my life of the benefits of washing the hands, especially after utilizing the facilities of a public restroom.
Now with the threats of a new mutant variety of the swine flu, a dangerous form
of Staphylococcus bacteria, a killer new strain of tuberculosis, and a variety of other terrible new and revived old diseases
sweeping the world, hand washing after contact in public places is more important than it ever was.
People who know what they are talking about not only recommend frequent hand washing,
they also advocate careful cleaning under the finger nails.
We have heard it said that fingers are like inoculation needles laden with dangerous
bacteria every time we use them to rub our eyes or pick our nose. He Common bad habits like these, shared by most people we
know, keep our immune systems busy warding off the dangerous pathogens that we are constantly introducing into our system.
When I see men walk out of public restrooms without washing their hands (and it
happens all too frequently) I immediately think of all of the things in that store, restaurant or gasoline station that they,
or others like them, have been in contact with before I entered the premises.
I say that I RARELY see men washing their hands in public restrooms. And that
makes me sensitive to the fact that most things in public places are probably contaminated by very filthy hands that have
not only handled private parts of the body, but may even have been in direct contact with human feces.
Realizing that most men are not washing their hands, I suspect that the same thing
is happening in the women’s restrooms. Are they also this careless? And why would anyone not take a few extra seconds
of their time to wash their hands with warm water and soap before leaving these restrooms?
I found the answer in a recent article for Live Science by Bjorn Carey. The story
said researchers observed people leaving public restrooms and find that only 83 percent of them took the time to wash their
The study shows that more women than men washed. The researchers said 75 percent
of the men washed their hands compared to 90 percent of women.
From personal observations, usually noticed while traveling, I am surprised that
the number is that high. Often if I find other men in the restroom and that I am often the only one to stop to wash and use
the hand drier on the way out of the door.
The story said the survey went farther than inquiring about washing up after using
public restrooms. It was found that even fewer people bother to wash their hands after using a home bathroom, or changing
Even fewer people washed up after petting a cat or dog, handling money, or sneezing
Only 24 percent of men and 39 percent of the women questioned were found to always
wash their hands after coughing or sneezing, the story said.
The results of the study were released by the American Society for Microbiology
and the Soap and Detergent Association to highlight National Clean Hands Week, Sept. 18-24.
“Our message is clear,” said Judy Daly, secretary of the ASM. “One
of the most effective tools in preventing the spread of infection is literally at our fingertips.”