U.S. handwashing gets a 'C'

Sept. 15, 2004 at 7:27 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Americans aren't fighting disease as effectively as they could because they don't wash their hands often enough, a soap industry said Wednesday.

The Soap and Detergent Association launched a study about handwashing, touted as a great way to stop the spread of disease. Respondents were asked about the basics -- washing before a meal, after going to the bathroom and after coughing or sneezing.

"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cleaning our hands is the single most important thing we can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness to others," said Nancy Bock, the group's vice president of education.

The group's report card gave Americans a "C" in handwashing.

While 90 percent of those surveyed said they wash their hands after using the bathroom, a 2003 observational survey by the American Society for Microbiology found one-third of public restroom users didn't wash.

Forty-three percent said they don't always wash after sneezing or coughing, 32 percent fail to wash before lunch and 54 percent don't wash for 20 seconds -- considered the time needed to effectively remove germs and dirt.

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