New hand washing study challenges FDA guidelines

RALEIGH, N.C. (CBS News) — A new study from Rutgers University in New Jersey evaluated the efficacy of hand washing and found that how long you wash may be more important than how hot the water is.

The finding directly contradicts current FDA guidelines, which recommend water that is 100 degrees Fahrenheit for successful elimination of bacteria.

Tell us about this study?

For the study, the researchers contaminated the hands of 21 volunteers with high levels of a harmless bacteria several times over six months. The participants were then asked to wash their hands in 60-degree, 79-degree or 100-degree water.

What they found was that washing for 10 seconds significantly removed bacteria from the hands irrespective of water temperature. Shorter time periods were not as effective. The amount of soap the people used didn’t affect the findings

What are the benefits of hand washing? Why is it so important?

Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.

Germs can get onto hands if people touch any object that has germs on it because someone coughed or sneezed on it or was touched by some other contaminated object. When these germs get onto hands and are not washed off, they can be passed from person to person and make people sick.

What do you recommend when it comes to hand washing?

The CDC recommends the following hand washing guidelines:

•  Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
•  Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
•  Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
•  Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
•  Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

If you don’t have soap or clean running water available, the CDC recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer — at least 60 percent alcohol — applied to the palm of one hand, before rubbing both hands together all over the surfaces of your hands and fingers until dry.

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