Handwashing Stats Improve, But Some of Us Are Still Pretty Gross...

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While restaurant dish cloths appear to be the latest catalyst for food poisoning, there’s some good news on the home front: More of us are washing our hands—but we still have a long way to go.

Roughly 77% of us always clean our hands before handling or eating food (83% of women vs. 71% of men), according to a new study sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute.

Other interesting study factoids:

  • 85% of adults washed their hands in public restrooms, up from 77% in 2007—the highest number since these observational studies began in 1996.
  • In sporting-venue restrooms, however, the percentage drops to 65% for men (as compared to an applause-worthy 98% of women).
  • 89% of those polled say they always wash their hands after using the bathroom at home.
  • Only 39% always wash their hands after coughing or sneezing.
  • 82% said they always wash their hands after changing a diaper (88% of women vs. 80% of men).
  • Of the four cities studied, the most diligent hand-washers in public restrooms lived in Chicago and San Francisco (89%), Atlanta (82%) and New York City (79%).

“Our first observational study in 1996 found only 68% overall washing up in public restrooms, and that declined to an all-time low of 67% when we repeated the study in 2000,” says Judy Daly, PhD, director of clinical microbiology at Children’s Primary Medical Center in Salt Lake City. “We hope that as a result of an increased focus on handwashing in the media over these years, as well as increased public awareness of infectious-disease risks, behavior really is changing.”

“People are getting the message,” adds Nancy Bock, vice president of consumer education for the American Cleaning Institute. “Between Mom’s commonsense advice and the recent pandemic scare, people now seem to realize the importance of when and how you wash your hands.”

 Photo: Adam & Lucy

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