The Sciences

Hand washing denialists

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitMay 1, 2009 5:06 PM

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In my post the other day about how simply washing your hands can prevent a lot of disease transmission, a scary number of people felt the need to leave comments proudly proclaiming how they don't wash their hands after using the bathroom, and how they don't get sick. To those disgusting people, I say: blecccchhhh and ewwwww.

But seriously, that's really bad logic. First, this isn't about you, it's about the people who use the bathroom or other utensils after you do; they are the ones getting your germs on and in their bodies. Second, your stories are anecdotal, and not based on real data. Third, it's a fallacy: just because you haven't gotten sick doesn't mean you can't. You need that real data. So here it is: a meta-analysis of studies of people who washed their hands with soap versus those who didn't shows that washing with soap can reduce the risk of intestinal infections and diarrhea by about 50%! When extrapolated over the population, simply washing hands with soap and water could save one million lives over the globe. So you can brag all you want about how you just love getting feces on your fingers and then leaving it all over doorknobs, telephones, pencils, and everything else you touch, but the facts are against you. Wash your hands. The life you save may be your own, but it may also be that of someone you love.

Tip o' the toilet seat to the ever-hygienic Ben Goldacre.

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