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September 18, 2006 09:12 AM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Brian Sansoni, 202-662-2517 (office) or via email at bsansoni@cleaning101.com

America’s Clean Hands Report CardSM - Can’t Rise Above ‘C’ Level

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 18, 2006 – The increased prevalence of contagious skin infections, the threat of pandemic flu and the upcoming cold season prompted The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) to issue its second Clean Hands Report CardSM, giving America a “C-minus”, a downgrade from 2004, when the country received a “C.”

“It’s more important than ever that people understand that clean hands save lives,” said Nancy Bock, SDA Vice President of Education. “It’s the places we’re at everyday where we need to protect ourselves the most – at home, at work and at school – anywhere we come in contact with other people’s germs.”

Among the findings of SDA’s 2006 National Cleaning Survey:

  • 68% of respondents don’t wash their hands long enough to effectively remove germs and dislodge dirt (worsened from 54% in 2004). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SDA recommend washing with soap for at least 20 seconds. 
  • 36% surveyed seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing (slightly improved from 43% in 2004). One of the most common ways people catch colds is by rubbing their nose or eyes after touching someone or something contaminated with the cold virus.
  • 31% don’t always wash before eating lunch (similar to 2004). That means germs that from money, door handles and the lunch counter could attract more bugs than just ants to the picnic.

SDA (www.cleaning101.com) produced the Report Card to raise awareness of National Clean Hands Week (September 17-23), a national health campaign that touts handwashing as the easiest path to staying healthy. The Report Card surveyed Americans on basic hand hygiene practices, such as washing before a meal, after using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing. The Report Card not only measured how often Americans wash daily, but for how long, and revealed perceptions of hand hygiene. (A summary of the Survey’s other findings are available at www.cleaning101.com/handhygiene).

More Education Needed

According to the CDC, cleaning our hands is the single most important thing we can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness to others. Of those surveyed by SDA, only 50% believe that hand washing is the number one way to prevent colds and flu. And, 31% of respondents wash their hands fewer than seven times on an average day.

Ninety-two percent of Americans surveyed said they always washed their hands after using the bathroom, while five percent said they frequently washed, and three percent said they seldom or never washed. There may be a major gap between what people say and what they do.

A 2005 observational study commissioned by SDA and the American Society for Microbiology found that just 83% of people washed their hands after using a public restroom.

Refresher course on proper hand hygiene!

How-to Wash Your Hands to Effectively Remove Germs

  1. Wet hands with warm running water prior to reaching for the soap, either in bar or liquid form. 
  2. Rub hands together to make a lather. Do this away from running water, so the lather isn’t washed away. 
  3. Wash the front and back of your hands, between your fingers and under the nails. Continue washing for 20 seconds or more. 
  4. Rinse hands well under warm running water. 
  5. Dry hands thoroughly with a clean towel or air dryer. 

Hand sanitizers or gels or wipes are useful alternatives if soap and water are not available (for example, when traveling in the car or taxi on the way to a business meeting, before eating an in-flight meal or snack, outdoor work settings, etc.)

While routine hand washing is recommended throughout the day, according to SDA, hand washing is vital:

  • before preparing food; 
  • when eating meals and snacks;
  • after using the restroom;
  • after touching animals; 
  • when hands are dirty; and 
  • when you or someone around you is ill.

SDA, which has been educating the public about health and hygiene issues since 1926, offers a range of resources for parents, educators, and students at its website: www.cleaning101.com.

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2006 Clean Hands Report CardSM Key Findings

The following questions were asked of 1008 American adults (508 men and 500 women). The independent consumer research study was completed in August – September 2006, on behalf of The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), by International Communications Research (ICR). The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

What do you think is the number one way to prevent colds and flu?
Results:

* Clean hands regularly (50%)
* Healthy diet (21%)
* Immunization (15%)
* Proper sleep (7%)
* Stress-reduction (3%)
* No prevention (1 %)
* Don’t know (3%)

Insight:

* More than half of Americans should know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cleaning your hands is the single most important thing we can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness to others.

Approximately how many times do you wash your hands on an average day?
Results:

* 1-2 times (3%)
* 3-4 times (11%)
* 5-6 times (18%)
* 7-10 times (24%)
* More than 10 times (42%)
* I don’t wash my hands (.3%)
* Don’t know (2%)

Insight:

* Since 2004, the number of people who wash their hands more than 10 times per average day has increased from 36% to 42%. However, 32% still only wash up fewer than 7 times per day.

When you wash your hands, how long do you typically lather them, or rub them with soap?
Results:

* Less than 10 seconds (13%)
* 10-15 seconds (32%)
* 15-20 seconds (21%)
* More than 20 seconds (28%)
* Don’t know (3%)

Insight:

* The SDA and CDC recommend washing with soap for at least 20 seconds to remove germs and dirt, meaning 66% do not wash long enough for this to occur.

How often do you wash your hands after you cough or sneeze?
Results:

* Always (28%)
* Frequently (34%)
* Seldom (26%)
* Never (10%)
* Don’t know (1%)

Insight:

* 36% of Americans seldom or never wash their hands after they cough or sneeze, slightly up from 43% in 2004.

How often do you wash your hands before eating lunch?
Results:

* Always (68%)
* Frequently (20%)
* Seldom (8%)
* Never (2%)
* Don’t know (2%)

Insight:

* These numbers are virtually unchanged since 2004, which means that germs from money, door handles and the lunch counter are still bringing more bugs than just ants to the picnic.

How often do you wash your hands after going to the bathroom?
Results:

* Always (92%) – up from 90% in 2004
* Frequently (5%)
* Seldom (2%)
* Never (1%)

Insight:

* If you compare survey responses with observational studies, there’s a gap between what people say and what they do. A 2005 observational study commissioned by SDA and the American Society for Microbiology found that just 83% of people washed their hands after using a public restroom.