15 October 2008
Plentiful poo traces confirm Brits' aversion to handwashing
by Kate Melville
A new study by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has found that the further north in England you go, the more likely you are to find fecal bacteria on people's hands, especially men. But women living in the south have little to feel smug about. In London, they were found to be three times as likely as their menfolk to have dirty hands. The men of London registered the most impressive score among all those surveyed, with a mere 6 percent found to have fecal bugs on their hands.
The Dirty Hands Study was conducted in order to provide a snapshot of the UK's hand hygiene habits, as part of the world's first Global Handwashing Day today (October 15th). The results were compiled by swabbing commuters' hands at bus stops outside five train stations around the UK (Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham, London (Euston) and Cardiff).
The results indicated that commuters in Newcastle were up to three times more likely than those in London to have fecal bacteria on their hands (44 percent compared to 13 percent) while those in Birmingham and Cardiff were roughly equal in the hand hygiene stakes (23 percent and 24 percent respectively). Commuters in Liverpool also registered a high score for fecal bacteria, with a contamination rate of 34 percent.
In Newcastle and Liverpool, men were more likely than women to show contamination (53 percent of men compared to 30 percent of women in Newcastle, and 36 percent of men compared to 31 percent of women in Liverpool), although in the other three centers, the women's hands were dirtier. In Euston, they were more than three times likelier than the men to have fecal bacteria on their hands (the men here registered an impressive 6 percent, compared to a rate of 21 percent in the women).
"We were flabbergasted by the finding that so many people had fecal bugs on their hands. The figures were far higher than we had anticipated, and suggest that there is a real problem with people washing their hands in the UK. If any of these people had been suffering from a diarrhea disease, the potential for it to be passed around would be greatly increased by their failure to wash their hands after going to the toilet," warned Dr Val Curtis, Director of the Hygiene Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine