Hand Washing Practices Are Lacking For Many
June 11, 2013

Only Five Percent Of People Properly Wash Their Hands After Using The Bathroom

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

One in ten Americans do not wash their hands after using the restroom, and of those that do, one-third don´t use soap, according to a new study which appears in the Journal of Environmental Health.

Furthermore, only five percent of those wash their hands long enough to kill the germs that can lead to infections, researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) reported following observations of nearly 3,800 people utilizing public restroom facilities.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand washing is the most effective thing that a person can do to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Failing to do so properly contributes to nearly half of all foodborne illness outbreaks, the university said.

While the CDC said that 15 to 20 seconds of vigorous hand washing with both soap and water is needed to effectively kill germs, the MSU researchers found that restroom users only spent an average of approximately six seconds scrubbing their hands.

“These findings were surprising to us because past research suggested that proper hand washing is occurring at a much higher rate,” explained Carl Borchgrevink, associate professor of hospitality business at the East Lansing, Michigan institution and lead investigator on the study.

Borchgrevink and his MSU colleagues JaeMin Cha and Seung Hyun Kim recruited a dozen college students, trained them in data collection methods, and had them observe hand-washing behaviors in restaurants, bars and other public establishments. The students attempted to remain as inconspicuous as possible, doing things such as standing off to the side and recording their results on a mobile device, the university said.

They discovered that 15 percent of men and 7 percent of women did not wash their hands at all. Only half of male toilet users that did wash their hands used soap, while 78 percent of females did so.

Furthermore, the researchers found that people were less likely to wash their hands if the sink was dirty, and more likely to do so if there was a sign present in the bathroom encouraging them to do so. People were more likely to wash their hands during the day than during the evening hours — a phenomenon Borchgrevink attributes to people having a more relaxed attitude when out for food or drink at night.

Borchgrevink, a former chef and restaurant manager, believes the study results have implications not just for customers, but also for owners of diners, hotels and similar businesses.

“Imagine you´re a business owner and people come to your establishment and get foodborne illness through the fecal-oral route — because people didn´t wash their hands — and then your reputation is on the line,” he said. “You could lose your business.”