Annual Hygiene Council held in Cairo Egypt reveals results of local and international hygiene study
Results of an international, regional and local ‘Hygiene in the Home Study 2009’ were released recently during the Hygiene Council meeting held at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza in Cairo, Egypt.
The international Hygiene in the Home Study 2009 reveals that kitchens are dirtier than bathrooms when it comes to bacterial contamination. Carried out by the Hygiene Council in eight countries; Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Germany, India, Malaysia, South Africa, UK and USA, the study exposes the kitchen cleaning cloth to be the dirtiest item in the home, with 86% having unsatisfactory or worse levels of bacteria. Not surprisingly, few householders (25%) knew that the kitchen cloth would harbour the most bacteria.
The kitchen tap is the second dirtiest item of those tested, with more than half (52%) unsatisfactory or worse. Only 8% of householders thought this item would be the dirtiest. When questioned, the majority of people (52%) thought the most contaminated item in the home would be the toilet flush handle, however only 15% failed the hygiene test. In fact, kitchen taps are twice (13%) more likely to be the home of E. coli than toilet flushes (6%).
The study findings also provide an insight into cleaning behaviours globally. The majority of the study participants often overlook the kitchen cloth when it comes to cleaning, with most just rinsing it in washing up liquid rather than disinfecting it. The toilet flush is considered an important area to clean, which may explain why this site appears to be relatively clean. People are willing to change though, with a significant 89% stating they would alter their cleaning habits for the better based on the results of this study.
John Oxford, chairman of the Hygiene Council and Professor of Virology at Barts and the London School of Medicine & Dentistry, London, says, “Our study highlights significant gaps in the public’s hygiene knowledge and these really need to be addressed. The importance of cleaning key hygiene hotspots in the home is paramount, particularly at a time when we’re all concerned about the spread of infectious diseases such as swine flu. Practicing good hygiene is something we can all do to break the chain of infection and protect ourselves and our families.”
Appearances can be deceiving
Bacteria and viruses cannot be seen by the naked eye so just because something looks clean does not mean it is hygienically clean. Appearances can be deceiving and this was borne out by the study with 33% of visibly clean kitchen cloths found to be dirty in microbiological terms. A further 5% of cloths actually appeared to be relatively new yet failed the tests. 21% of kitchen taps also appeared clean, yet failed the tests.
The Hygiene Hypothesis: A worrying trend;
The motivation for people to clean their home is sometimes challenged by the view that too much cleaning is bad for your immune system and contributes to an increase in allergic diseases. The Hygiene Council concludes that there is no scientific data to support this theory, commonly known as the hygiene hypothesis. While the Council recognises that some exposure to microbes is an important step in the process of ‘natural immunization’, exposure to harmful pathogens that can cause disease is unnecessary and preventable.
An International consumer survey conducted by the Hygiene Council reveals that removal of germs from the home is often not the primary reason for cleaning with over a quarter of people (27%) only doing so to make their home ‘look’ clean and ‘smell’ nice.
Participants in the Hygiene in the Home Study were also asked about the hygiene hypothesis. While support for the theory appears to vary significantly from country to country, overall a reassuring 43% do not believe in the notion at all, 24% thought there might be some truth in it, with 8% not sure. Only quarter (25%) firmly believe in it.
Professor Tariq Ahmed Madani, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Advisor to the Minister of Health, Ministry of Health, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia said ‘It’s important to be practical and pay attention to areas that represent the greatest risk of infection. Handwashing at key times, appropriate surface disinfection of hand and food contact sites and proper laundry sanitation are where efforts should be focussed. Good hygiene advice has even more relevance now in light of the current swine flu outbreak. ’
Children at risk
As many highchairs are heavily contaminated with bacteria (10%) as toilet flushes. The study showed that 5% of highchairs (or places where children eat) are heavily contaminated with E. coli, which is especially worrying as this poses a serious food safety risk. Just 8% identified the highchair as a primary area of contamination in the home. Over three quarters of highchairs were found to be satisfactory, most likely due to the fact that 84% of respondents reported cleaning the highchair at least daily or every time it was used. Disturbingly though, 8% of householders said they never cleaned the highchair at all.
Cold and flu protection
Understanding of the importance of handwashing in cold and flu prevention is relatively high among survey respondents. Nearly half (45%) of people questioned think ‘washing hands regularly’ is the most effective way to avoid catching a cold or flu, whilst more than a fifth (22%) of people think ‘covering your nose and mouth when someone else sneezes’ and 1 in 10 (10%) people believe surface disinfection provide the best solutions.
“Proper handwashing and surface disinfection using a trusted named brand is essential to our protection against infection. We’ve seen the scientific data from Dettol which is very effective and specially formulated to kill viruses,” added Professor Oxford.