Opinion: Traces of urine

POSTED: 10/15/12 3:48 PM

It’s global hand washing day today. We have to pay our respect to the earthling that came up with this idea, but while we agree that washing your hands is a sensible thing to do, the term global hand washing day gave us a fit.

We’re telling the truth here (as we are wont to do), so we really had a good laugh about something that is no laughing matter at all.

Think about it. How often do we come in contact with products that have been handled by others? Repackaged cheese in our supermarkets is just one example. Your cheese is sitting pretty in a transparent piece of cellophane but somebody put it there. You don’t know who that somebody is; you don’t know whether that somebody was sneezing while packaging your cheese and you don’t know if this somebody used the bathroom prior to all this. In fact, you don’t know anything, least of all whether this invisible somebody is sued to washing hands with soap after a visit to the bathroom, or after wiping a dripping nose.

There is one thing we do know: most people do not even give this kind of stuff a second thought and then the whole question becomes irrelevant – until bodily functions begin to play up in the most unfortunate manner that make people wonder what on earth they did wrong this time.

A website with the uplifting name infectioncontroltoday published research last year showing that nearly a quarter of the 3,000 US and Canadian citizens that participated in the survey do not wash their hands after coughing or sneezing (we confess to that one), and more than half does not wash hands after handling money (we confess to that one too). Less than one in five washes their hands after using computers at work (okay, this gets boring: we confess to that one too).

Remarkably, the survey did not include the question: do you wash your hands after a trip to the bathroom? To get an idea of how that hangs, we refer with some malicious pleasure to a little investigation that was done in the Netherlands a year ago. The investigators tested bowls of peanuts pubs and bars offer to their clients. And what did they find in some of these bowls with tempting little snacks? Twenty-seven different traces of urine.

That says more than enough about people’s bathroom habits – and don’t think this only applies to pub crawlers. That invisible somebody packaging your cheese could have the same sloppy habits.

Happy global hand washing day to everyone.

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