New study says that you're probably washing your hands all wrong
There are plenty of times that we find ourselves in bathrooms, aware of how other people are washing their hands. If you're waiting to get to the sink, soap, hand towels or hand dryer in a busy public bathroom, it's easy to look over and wonder why that person thinks that sprinkling their hands with water then immediately walking away will do anything to keep them clean.
Yet even those of us who might get a little judgemental in moments like that have to face the facts: we're probably not doing it right either. Sorry, germaphobes.
A recent study has shown that 97% of the time, we're washing our hands wrong. Doing it wrong can lead to the spread of germs to surfaces and other people, and eventually even contaminate food. The US Department of Agriculture have revealed that most consumers failed to wash their hands and rub them with soap for twenty seconds, the amount of time recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remove as many germs as possible.
The study brought 383 people together in six test kitchen facilities, located in the metro Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina and in Smithfield, North Carolina. Around half the time, people spread bacteria to spice containers while preparing meat, and 11% of the time they spread bacteria to refrigerator handles. If you're looking for further studies to back this up, look no further than the 2013 study run by Michigan State University, which found that only 5% of people washed their hands correctly.
"You can't see, smell or feel bacteria," said Carmen Rottenberg, the USDA's acting deputy undersecretary for food safety. "By simply washing your hands properly, you can protect your family and prevent that bacteria from contaminating your food and key areas in your kitchen."
If you're looking to do it properly, the CDC have some tips for you to follow. Past the obvious step of wetting your hands, it's suggested you turn the tap off and apply soap. Lather the front and back of your hands up with the soap, as well as under your fingernails and between your fingers. Scrub for at least 20 seconds (singing the alphabet song once is enough), rinse well with water, then dry them with a clean towel or hand dryer.
Numerous participants in the recent USDA study also didn't dry their hands with a clean towel something that can lead to some real problems. An additional study conducted by researchers from the University of Mauritius this month found that 49 of 100 towels tested showed the growth of bacteria normally found in or on the human body, including E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (often referred to as 'staph').
Paul Dawson, food scientist and professor in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences at Clemson University, said:
"Those are bacteria that are concerns for foodborne illnesses. Of course, E. coli is in the news a lot, but E. coli as a general genus and species is not a problem. But there are specific types that can cause problems, like the ones recently found on romaine lettuce."
Foodborne illnesses are a serious issue, with 48 million Americans sickened each year, according to CDC estimates. This eventually leads to around 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. Maybe if we were all washing our hands more thoroughly, those numbers would drop.