My Story

Bad As Flies

Dirty Truth Revealed; Hand Washing Often Avoided


By James Donahue


Something that has irked me for a long time 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 threat of deadly new viruses, the spread of new mutant variety of the Staphylococcus bacteria, a killer new strain of tuberculosis, common colds 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.


Medical people who really know what they are talking about even advocate careful cleaning under the finger nails. They say the fingers are like inoculation needles and are very likely laden with dangerous bacteria every time we use them to rub our eyes or pick our nose. These bad habits keep our immune systems busy warding off the dangerous pathogens that we constantly introduce 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.


The fact is that I RARELY see men washing their hands in public restrooms. I do not know if women are any cleaner. 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.


Since warm water, soap and paper towels are usually always available in every public restroom, and the process takes only an extra minute or two, we must wonder why so many people fail to take the time to do the right thing.


My observations were supported 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 hands.


The study found 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 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 a diaper.


Even fewer people washed up after petting a cat or dog, handling money, or sneezing and coughing.


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.”