Bad advice on washing handsGravenhurst Banner, 2004
Flu season: washing hands is not good enough
The Romans started it all when they tired of people peeing in the temple of Diana and decided to provide public latrines in the first century of our era. But since then, our washroom smarts have changed very little.
If public washroom behaviour is any guide, we don’t know much more about cleanliness than canis familiaris, our favourite four-footed furry friend. Most of us don’t stick our snouts in the toilet bowl, but we sure love to get our hands on the dirt. Those taps, toilet seats, closet doors, towel gizmos, soap dispensers, and doorknobs are crawling with microscopic nasties of every shape and form. The Romans would be amazed.
But you can still see some fathers dutifully showing their young sons how to contaminate themselves after peeing. Your son just finished washing his hands. Now his hands are clean. Whoops! The little feller just turned the tap off! Everybody else who peed before him has left his mark on that tap (save for the considerable number that go straight for the doorknob).
Shoulda told the little guy. Let it run, son. Let the next person catch the bugs. And now look what your little man is doing—yanking at the towel dispenser. He’s bound to catch something there. Oh well, who cares. On the way out he’s going to give the doorknob a rub anyway. So much for fatherly example! So much for washing hands!
Health workers may have something to tell us in a clinic or a newspaper during flu season, but where is the application of their expertise in the washroom? Designing hygienic washrooms would not be difficult. Hand dryers, taps and doors could all be designed to function without contact. In the meantime, why not use paper as a shield? Bring your own. Cast the paper on the floor if you have to, until they’re smart enough to put a container near the exit, as well as near the taps. Don’t worry about what others think. You set the example. Turn the tap on with paper. Turn the tap off with paper. Open the door with paper. Throw paper away. Got that?
Good health in 2004!
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