By Satoko HasegawaStaff Writer
It’s not unusual to see people who do not wash their hands afterusing a public restroom.
But who actually admits to this?
This fall, the American Society for Microbiology researched howmany people would tell the truth about their handwashing habits andthey too found it was hard to get people to fess up.
They concluded that Americans do not wash their hands as much asthey claim they do.
Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 4, a phone survey was performed on 1,021residents across the nation and 95 percent of the respondents toldsurveyors that they always wash their hands after using a publicrestroom.
However, the research team found this to be untrue.
The team’s observers sneaked into public restrooms in fivedifferent cities to see if people really practice sanitarycleanliness: Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, Atlanta and NewYork City.
Out of 7,836 individuals, only 58 percent of men and 75 percent ofwomen actually washed their hands.
The study discovered a huge percentage gap between self-reportedand actual handwashing behavior, suggesting that one-third of therespondents lied.
“People should have a habit of washing their hands at least 15seconds after using a bathroom,” said Dr. Gregg Lichtenstein, medicaldirector at Student Health Services on campus.
Lichtenstein said people can get sick from not washing theirhands.
“The most serious disease that people may get is a food-bornillness,” Lichtenstein said. “There are viruses like Hepatitis A aswell that can contained in food. Another type of infection is someforms of diarrhea illnesses.”
The Daily Aztec conducted an unofficial study of its own. Duringfive minutes in the East Commons women’s restroom yesterdayafternoon, out of 11 women, only one did not wash her hands.
In the East Commons men’s restroom, one man out of seven did notwash his hands.
Kinesiology senior Jennifer Arquero said she tries to not touchpublic restroom doors and faucets because she has seen people skipthe handwashing process. So, she said she uses paper towels to avoiddirect contact. She said she is not the only one that does this.
“I don’t know why people don’t wash their hands,” Arquero said. “Iguess they are in a hurry. But they are carrying germs. And they aregoing to go around opening doors everywhere. So, you could contractdiseases or infections (by touching doors).”
Graduate student Doris Lopez said non-handwashers are disgusting.
“Even when I wash my hands at a restroom, these people who don’twash hands touch doors when they leave … oh my, bacteria is comingto my hands,” Lopez said. “These people are either lazy or don’t careabout diseases.”
Lopez said she grabs a paper towel to open a bathroom door, onlywhen she catches people leaving without washing their hands.
There are two types of bathroom doors on campus, Arguero said. Oneis with a grab bar so that people have to pull it when they exit. Theother is without a grab bar, and users must push the door to leave –not necessarily using their hands to do it.
Arquero said the school should build more push-model doors.
“We have continued to modernize restrooms as time and fundspermit,” said Anthony Fulton, director of Facilities Planning andManagement department.
Fulton said the department has installed automatic flush valvesthat are motion activated at several areas on campus and more will beinstalled in the future.
“This is a relatively new technology employed in highly traffickedrestrooms,” Fulton said.
Currently, the third floors of both the Administration and theEducation buildings have adopted sensor type flushers and faucets.
According to the handwashing behavior study, New York was theworst of all the surveyed cities: 51 percent of 2,283 people did notwash their hands. The cleanest was Chicago with 17 percent of 2,597who did not wash their hands.
Compared to a similar study done in 1996, the number of men whoactually practice handwashing behavior dropped from 61 percent.
“I don’t know if there is a trend (for men not to wash theirhands),” Lichtenstein said. “But there should be more education inyounger grades in schools, even in pre-schools, about the importanceof washing hands.”
Lichtenstein said people should wash their hands with soap and payattention to the fingernail area to best kill the germs.
SHS Health Educator Sarah McArdle said students have notcomplained about campus restrooms to her. SHS has not conducted anysimilar studies.
To see the results of the American Society for Microbiologyhandwashing survey, go to www.washup.org