Northerners' hands up to 3 times dirtier than those living in the South

October 15, 2008

The further north you go, the more likely you are to have faecal bacteria on your hands, especially if you are a man, according to a preliminary study conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

But women living in the South and Wales have little to feel smug about. In London, they are three times as likely as their men folk to have dirty hands, and in Cardiff, twice as likely. The men of London registered the most impressive score among all those surveyed, with a mere 6% found to have faecal bugs on their hands. Overall more than one on four commuters have bacteria which come from faeces on their hands.

The Dirty Hands Study was conducted in order to provide a snapshot of the nation's hand hygiene habits, as part of the world's first Global Handwashing Day today. Commuters' hands were swabbed at bus stops outside five train stations around the UK (Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham, Euston and Cardiff).

The results indicated that commuters in Newcastle were up to three times more likely than those in London to have faecal bacteria on their hands (44% compared to 13%) while those in Birmingham and Cardiff were roughly equal in the hand hygiene stakes (23% and 24% respectively). Commuters in Liverpool also registered a high score for faecal bacteria, with a contamination rate of 34%.

In Newcastle and Liverpool, men were more likely than women to show contamination (53% of men compared to 30% of women in Newcastle, and 36% of men compared to 31% of women in Liverpool), although in the other three centres, the women's hands were dirtier. Almost twice as many women than men in Cardiff were found to have contamination (29% compared to 15 %) while in Euston, they were more than three times likelier than the men to have faecal bacteria on their hands (the men here registered an impressive 6%, compared to a rate of 21% in the women). In Birmingham, the rate for women was slightly higher than the men (26% compared to 21%).

The bacteria that were found are all from the gut, and do not necessarily always cause disease, although they do indicate that hands have not been washed properly.

Dr Val Curtis, Director of the Hygiene Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, comments: 'We were flabbergasted by the finding that so many people had faecal bugs on their hands. The figures were far higher than we had anticipated, and suggest that there is a real problem with people washing their hands in the UK. If any of these people had been suffering from a diarrhoeal disease, the potential for it to be passed around would be greatly increased by their failure to wash their hands after going to the toilet'.

For more information about Global Handwashing Day, please go to: www.globalhandwashingday.org .

Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Explore further: Abortion, contraception, pregnancy—how women's bodies became a battlezone

Related Stories

Abortion, contraception, pregnancy—how women's bodies became a battlezone

September 12, 2017
Outside, the mid-morning heat is stifling. It's not humid like the bustling metropolises of Mumbai or Kolkata; here in New Delhi it's a dry heat, the type of heat that exhausts you, made worse by a thick layer of dust which ...

More than half of China cancer deaths attributable to potentially modifiable risk factors

July 6, 2017
A new report finds more than half of all cancer deaths in men in 2013 in China and more than a third of those in women were attributable to a group of potentially modifiable risk factors: smoking, alcohol, nutrition, weight, ...

The sex workers who are stopping HIV

August 15, 2017
It's late when we reach Inhamízua on the outskirts of the city.

How to get to a world without suicide

August 1, 2017
After his son's suicide aged 18, Steve Mallen sees the world differently. Along with a growing number of mental health experts, he wants to reduce the rate of suicide across the world, and is aiming for zero. Simon Usborne ...

Like father like son? How we balance work and family life may be learned from our parents

August 8, 2017
The extent to which we prioritise work versus family life may be shaped by our childhood experiences in the family home, according to a study co-authored by Dr Ioana Lupu from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

No significant differences in recurrence rates among women with DCIS taking anastrozole or tamoxifen

December 11, 2015
Postmenopausal women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) had similar outcomes with disease recurrence whether they took tamoxifen or the aromatase inhibitor anastrozole for five years after surgery, but women in the two ...

Recommended for you

Groundbreaking investigative effort identifies gonorrhea vaccine candidates

September 19, 2017
Researchers at Oregon State University have identified a pair of proteins that show promise as the basis for a gonorrhea vaccine.

Snail fever progression linked to nitric oxide production

September 14, 2017
Bilharzia, caused by a parasitic worm found in freshwater called Schistosoma, infects around 200 million people globally and its advance can lead to death, especially in children in developing countries.

Systems analysis points to links between Toxoplasma infection and common brain diseases

September 13, 2017
More than 2 billion people - nearly one out of every three humans on earth, including about 60 million people in the United States - have a lifelong infection with the brain-dwelling parasite Toxoplasma gondii.

Study clears important hurdle toward developing an HIV vaccine

September 13, 2017
An international team of researchers has demonstrated a way of overcoming one of the major stumbling blocks that has prevented the development of a vaccine against HIV: the ability to generate immune cells that stay in circulation ...

As 'flesh-eating' Leishmania come closer, a vaccine against them does, too

September 13, 2017
Parasites that ulcerate the skin, can disfigure the face, and may fatally mutilate its victim's internal organs are creeping closer to the southern edges of the United States.

Promising clinical trial results could give doctors a new tool against drug-resistant strains of malaria parasite

September 13, 2017
Tulane University researchers have developed a new drug that is effective against non-severe cases of malaria, according to results from an FDA-supervised clinical trial published in the latest issue of The Lancet Infectious ...

5 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JerryPark
not rated yet Oct 15, 2008
Hand washing seems to be one of those problems which admit to no solution. We have all seen many at public restrooms who do not wash at all and many others who wash so briefly that they have not really washed.
holmstar
4 / 5 (1) Oct 15, 2008
seems to me like this could also be interpreted as a study of the cleanliness of hand-holds available on public transit systems. Perhaps cities in the south of Britain clean their buses more frequently than those in the north.
smiffy
5 / 5 (1) Oct 15, 2008
That wouldn't explain the discrepancy between the men and the women commuters at each station.

What's worrying about this report is not 'who's the dirtiest' but the fact that so many are carrying these bugs. It effectively means that if you use this public transport system you're very likely to pick up somebody else's bugs no matter how meticulously you wash your own hands.
vlam67
not rated yet Oct 15, 2008
ROFL.If these denizens of "civilized world" can't even manage to clean their hands properly after their "masterful strokes", I shudder at what logic implies for the rest of the undeveloped world!
holmstar
1 / 5 (1) Oct 15, 2008
That wouldn't explain the discrepancy between the men and the women commuters at each station.


sure it could... it *could be* possible that customs in Newcastle and Liverpool are to allow women to sit while men stand and use the hand holds, while in other regions this is not as much the case.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.