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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

When Using Restroom, Don't Forget Soap and Water

Regina Graham |
October 5, 2010 | 11:22 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The sign is blatantly visible in almost every public restroom across America.  It states in bold letters, "Employees must wash hands before returning to work." This sign should not just apply to employees of companies and restaurants, but to everyone across America. 

A recent study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute shows that 85 percent of public restroom patrons wash their hands, while 15 percent of Americans still do not wash with soap and water after using a public restroom. 

In order to gather their data, the researchers hired “restroom spies” who pretended to be preoccupied with either putting on make-up or brushing their hair while they checked to see if people washed their hands.  The study also showed that men are in fact less hygienic than women - 23 percent of men did not wash their hands, compared to only 7 percent of women who did not either. 

Even though the number of Americans using soapy suds has increased from 77 percent in 2007, it’s still disgusting to find out that some people just don’t wash. Studies like this say a lot about personal hygiene in America.  Those people who do not wash are simply endangering the health of everyone who comes into contact with them, whether they touch a door handle or simply just shake someone’s hand.

Germs are invisible, so perhaps because people don't physically see them, they just don't feel the need to use soap and water and wash up.  It’s not like companies are charging to use the soap and water in a restroom.  Soap and water are some of the last free things in this country where almost everything is at an extra fee.  Why not take advantage of it?  They are provided for your use, so just do it.

Some people may make an excuse up as to why they did not wash their hands. They might even say something like “they were in a rush and did not have time."  Just think about all of the things you touched prior to using the restroom; think about all of the germs that are crawling all over those surface items; think about the people you came into contact with and ponder all of the places they were at before meeting you, especially people who are sick with a cold or the flu.  Germs are everywhere, but a simple step can help prevent sickness. 

If you are one of those Americans who does not wash their hands after using the restroom, do yourself and society a favor and use soap and water.

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