Study: Americans Don't Wash Their Hands Enough

ByABC News
September 19, 2000, 8:39 AM

T O R O N T O, Sept. 19 -- Apparently the city that never sleeps is also toobusy to wash up. A new survey of public restroom habits in fiveU.S. cities finds New York commuters are least likely to cleantheir hands after using the restroom.  

The results, released Monday, are the latest installment in theAmerican Society for Microbiologys effort to cajole folks intofollowing Moms most basic hygiene advice.

Clean Hands Campaign Fails

Four years ago, the society sponsored a study to see how oftenpeople take time for soap and water in restrooms. Researchers stoodaround, endlessly combing their hair or putting on makeup, whilewatching what people did. Or didnt do.

They found that about one-third of Americans skipped washing. Sothe society sponsored a clean hands campaign to educate folksabout the importance of hand washing in stopping the spread ofcolds, diarrhea and other infectious diseases.

This month, they did the survey again. The result: Not much haschanged. If anything, Americans are even slightly more slovenlythan they were in 1996. Especially in New York City, it seems.

Four years ago, 60 percent of folks using the rest rooms atGrand Central and Penn stations washed up afterward. This time, itwas just 49 percent.

To the microbiology society, made up of infection controlexperts, this is serious business. Fifteen seconds of soap andwater and rubbing your hands is a wonderful way to get germs off.We are not making a lot of progress, said microbiologist JudyDaly of Primary Childrens Medical Center in Salt Lake City, thesocietys secretary.

Besides the New York train stations, the observers peeked atbathroom habits at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, the Navy Pierin Chicago, an Atlanta Braves baseball game and a casino in NewOrleans.

Among the Findings

Overall, 67 percent of people washed with soap and water andthen dried their hands.

The cleanest people were in Chicago, where 83 percent washed,followed by 80 percent in San Francisco and 64 percent in NewOrleans and Atlanta.