THE WORLD Health Organisation may have reported the first global flu pandemic for over 40 years but Scots are continuing to put themselves at risk with their poor hygiene practices.
New research has revealed the humble kitchen tap is more than twice as dirty as the toilet flush in the average Scottish home.
The study examined swabs from a sample of homes across the UK and provides an insight into the inadequate cleaning behaviours and practice.
Only half of homes surveyed were rated as “satisfactory”, and one in six (14%) were classified as “unsatisfactory” or “heavily contaminated”.
Contamination hotspots in the home include babies’ high chairs (75%), television remote controls (65%) and the telephone (35%).
John Oxford, Chairman of the Hygiene Council and Professor of Virology at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said: “Our study highlights significant gaps in the public’s hygiene knowledge, which urgently need to be addressed, particularly during the current flu pandemic.
“The importance of targeted disinfection of key hygiene hotspots in the home is paramount. Practicing good hygiene is something we can all do to break the chain of infection and protect ourselves and our families.”
Only four per cent of adults consider the kitchen tap to pose the greatest risk of transmitting germs, with over half believing it to be the rubbish bin and one in three deeming the toilet seat the biggest culprit.
Poor hygiene practice in the kitchen proved to be the main source of spreading germs with only 15 per cent of homeowners admitting to disinfecting their kitchen cloths, while around half choose to clean them in the washing machine, often at too low a temperature to kill all the microbes.
Experts say cleaning the kitchen taps with a contaminated dishcloth creates a chain of infection and the spread of infectious disease around the kitchen and potentially the home.
Dr Lisa Ackerley, of the UK Hygiene Council, said “It’s important to be practical and pay attention to areas that represent the greatest risk of infection and targeted disinfection of hotspots is key.
“Handwashing at key times, appropriate surface disinfection of hand and food contact sites with antibacterial cleaner and proper laundry sanitation are where efforts should be focused. Good hygiene advice has even more relevance now in light of the reported swine flu pandemic.”
Toilet handles cleanest household item
The study also revealed toilet door handles were spotless in three out of four Scots’ homes, making it the cleanest household item tested.
The motivation for people to clean the home has previously been challenged by “the hygiene hypothesis” theory that too much cleaning is bad for your immune system and contributes to an increase in allergic diseases.
While the Hygiene Council recognises that some exposure to microbes is an important step in the process of ‘natural immunisation’, exposure to harmful pathogens that can cause disease is unnecessary and preventable.
Experts recommend hand washing and surface disinfection to prevent the spread of infection and viruses.