A recent observational study by the American Society for Microbiology reports that while 91 percent of American adults say they always wash their hands after using public washrooms, only 83 percent actually do so. It also found that women washed their hands more often (90 percent) than men (75 percent).

In August 2005, Harris Interactive® observed 6,336 individuals wash their hands - or not - at six public attractions in four major cities: Atlanta (Turner Field), Chicago (Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium), New York City (Grand Central Station, Penn Station), and San Francisco (Ferry Terminal Farmers Market).

The study is used to help highlight a vital public health message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “The single most important thing we can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness to others is to clean our hands.”

Other findings included:

  • Atlanta's Turner Field had the worst hand hygiene habits. Approximately 26 percent did not wash their hands.

  • The greatest gender disparity observed was in New York's Penn Station: 92 percent of women washed their hands, compared to only 64 percent of men.

  • San Francisco and Chicago were observed most favorably in the handwashing study. In both cities, 88 percent washed their hands.

    According to ASM, contrary to what many people believe, cold and influenza viruses are spread much more often by hands than through airborne transmission from sneezing.

The Clean Hands Coalition, www.cleanhandscoalition.org, is a national alliance of public and private partners working to improve health and save lives through clean hands.