American hygiene habits are going downhill and kitchen surfaces continue to harbor illness-causing bacteria that can threaten families, according to a new international study released today from the Hygiene Council, sponsored by LYSOL® brand products. Investigators swabbing for bacteria in the United States and around the world found that, despite American home owners claiming to clean their kitchen sink faucet handles at least once per week, 60 percent of faucets analyzed failed the hygiene test for having unsatisfactory or heavily contaminated levels of bacteria that come from feces or can cause skin infections. This is dramatically worse than 2008 when only 25 percent of kitchen faucets failed.
Of the eight countries participating in the 2009 global study, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa and Saudi Arabia all had cleaner kitchen sink faucets than the United States. While the United States fared better than much of the world in other rooms of the home, it continued to lose the battle against germs in the kitchen, one of the places where families spend the most time.
The new study also found that 65 percent of Americans claim to clean or change their kitchen sponge or cloth every month or more, but 70 percent of American sponges analyzed failed the hygiene test. This is only a 5 percent improvement over 2008, when 75 percent failed the hygiene test -- concerning because analysis of the new swabs revealed that U.S. sponges harbored E. coli, which can cause urinary tract infections and diarrhea. Kitchen cloths and sponges proved, once again, to be the germiest item in the home, which only 20 percent of homeowners predicted.
"Given the recent influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, it is more important than ever that Americans make hygiene a priority for their families. Parents' intentions are good, but results can be dramatically improved by following simple, proper, hygiene routines to help protect their families from illness-causing germs," said John Oxford, chairman of the Hygiene Council and Professor of Virology at St. Bartholomew's & The Royal London Hospital, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry.
The Hygiene Council is comprised of leading experts in the fields of microbiology, virology, infectious diseases, immunology and public health from around the globe, who have been educating consumers for the past four years about effective hygiene practices to help in the fight against the spread of infectious diseases. For the 2009 Hygiene Council study, investigators examined more than 1,280 household surfaces in eight countries around the world (Australia, Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States) to look for bacteria and learn more about families' hygiene habits.The Council recommends that families follow these routines to help stop the spread of harmful germs:
-- Handwashing: Wash your hands frequently and regularly, especially after going to the bathroom, before and after preparing food, after changing a diaper, after touching animals and pets and if someone in your household is ill. It is important to use soap and water, scrub underneath your nails and the back of your hands and dry thoroughly with a paper towel.
-- Surface Disinfection: According to global results from the study, more than 27 percent of home owners said they only clean their home to make it "look clean" and "smell nice." However, study results showed that simply cleaning is not enough to kill germs. Commonly touched surfaces, such as the kitchen faucet, should be regularly sprayed down with a disinfectant. To reduce the chances of cross contamination, skip the sponges and instead clean kitchen surfaces with a disinfectant product before preparing food and immediately after surfaces have been in contact with raw foods, such as meat and poultry.
--Cough and Sneeze Etiquette: Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette to prevent spreading germs to others. Cough into your elbow, rather than your hands, and sneeze into a tissue to minimize hand contact transmission of germs. Immediately throw away used tissues and wash your hands.
"These simple, low cost activities can be quite effective in keeping families healthy," says pediatrician Dr. Laura Jana, co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality and Food Fights. "While it's easy to understand how parents might overlook all of the common places where their young children can come into contact with germs in the course of their hectic daily lives, consistently following these simple steps can help protect their families."
The Hygiene Council recommendations are consistent and in support of recommendations made by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their Ounce of Prevention materials (www.cdc.gov/ounceofprevention). The Hygiene Council is funded by an educational grant from Reckitt Benckiser, makers of LYSOL® brand products.