Real-world proof of hand washing's effectiveness

May 05, 2010
Hand washing, long recognized as an effective germ-fighting practice, also appears to play an important role in improving the quality of stored drinking water in poor countries. Credit: iStock

Scientists are reporting dramatic new real-world evidence supporting the idea that hand washing can prevent the spread of water-borne disease. It appears in a new study showing a connection between fecal bacteria contamination on hands, fecal contamination of stored drinking water, and health in households in a developing country in Africa. The study is in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology.

Alexandria Boehm, Jenna Davis, and their students note that almost half of the world's population — over 3 billion people — have no access to municipal drinking water supply systems. They obtain drinking water wells, springs, and other sources, and store it in jugs and other containers in their homes. Past research showed that this stored water can have higher levels of bacterial contamination than its source. But nobody knew why.

The scientists found a strong link between on the hands of household residents and bacterial contamination in stored water in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Stored water contained nearly 100 times more than the source where it was collected. "The results suggest that reducing fecal contamination on hands should be investigated as a strategy for improving stored drinking water quality and health among households using non-networked water supplies," the report notes.

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More information: "Hands, Water, and Health: Fecal Contamination in Tanzanian Communities with Improved, Non-Networked Water Supplies", Environmental Science & Technology

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User comments : 5

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TegiriNenashi
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2010
I find it hard to believe that these "scientists" succeeded to publish their "Duh!" study beyond the Journal of Improbable Research.
frajo
not rated yet May 06, 2010
Maybe your disbelief will change into experience after living for one year in a region with "non-networked water supply".
marjon
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2010
Wasn't handwashing proven to be effective decades ago in hospitals?
Didn't Arabs, Jews and other cultures figure that out centuries ago?
frajo
not rated yet May 06, 2010
Folks, do I really have to remind you that there are regions on this planet without water taps on every corner and where water is a rarity?
marjon
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2010
Folks, do I really have to remind you that there are regions on this planet without water taps on every corner and where water is a rarity?

Millions in MA were reminded a few days ago when they had to boil their water. One would have thought the world was coming to an end the way the media played it up.
Civilization's veneer is quite thin.

How did those Arabs and Jews survive in the desert with so little water for so long? Discipline?

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