Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rainbow urinals remind men to wash their hands

A couple of people sent me this recent NPR post on new urinal design that has a handwashing sink built right in so that (1) it saves water and (2) it reminds men to wash their hands.

I’m a big fan of both things. Toilet-sinks have been around for a while. (Check out instructions how to make one yourself here.) They’re a marvelous use of water; the fact that we flush anywhere from three to six liters of water every time we flush, then go and (hopefully) wash our hands racks up huge amounts of water wastage. A single person may flush 6,400-12,800 gallons of fresh water per year.


As far as an in-your-face reminder to wash your hands, god knows we need it. Scientists who’ve studied this know it too. One 2003 study by Johnson and colleagues looked at public restroom handwashing rates at a Pennsylvania State University.

Results? Out of 175 individuals (95 women and 80 men), 61% of the women washed their hands (with soap) and 37% of the men. (The latter percentage increases to 53% of men who just rinsed their hands without soap.) When they put up a sign to remind people to wash their hands, 97% of women washed their hands and 35% of men did. (55% of men just rinsed.)

Disregarding strange mental images of how this study were conducted (I may need to do a post just on strange observational handwashing studies), the numbers are abysmally low. So if this urinal helps increase that number, all power to them. While as I’ve pointed out previously, urine is relatively safe, that bathroom you’ve entered is basically covered with fecal matter. And unless you’re randomly scrubbing during the day, your time in the bathroom is going to be the only times during the day that you’ll wash your hands of all the junk you’ve picked up from everywhere.

So 65% of men at Penn State?

Wash your hands. Or do we need to buy you rainbow urinals?



1 comment: