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World Toilet Day: RSPH Asks 'How Healthy are Our Loos'?


November 14, 2008, Press Dispensary. Poor hygiene is threatening public health and The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) believes that, on World Toilet Day - Wednesday November 19, the developed world has no reason to be complacent about its loo routines.

Toilet germs are spreading fast, with almost 50% of adults in the UK failing to dry their hands after using a public toilet, and one in six adults admitting that they don’t wash their hands every time(1). This lax approach to basic hygiene means germs from the toilet are left on the door handles, the flush handle and the taps, spreading germs on to the hands, and then into the food of everyone who touches the contaminated items.

Poor hygiene practices mean that millions of people are harbouring germs because they haven't washed and dried their hands after using the toilet. Wet hands pick up more germs than dry ones, and transfer them more readily, so drying hands is just as important as washing them with soap and hot water.

Professor Richard Parish, chief executive of RSPH, comments: "We know hand washing and drying could prevent up to half of all acute respiratory infections in this country and this, in turn, could save up to £80 million on annual GP consultations(2). Hand washing is even more effective at preventing acute gastrointestinal infections(3)."

He adds: "Public toilets are a key link in this chain, whether located in shops, restaurants or other places. It is vital that our public health is protected by the provision of clean toilets, using modern technology to allow us to wash and dry our hands effectively when away from home."

Dr Ros Stanwell-Smith, scientific advisor to RSPH, says: “The ready provision of clean and accessible toilets is the sign of a healthy civilisation. By ensuring that toilets are available in public places and that they are well supplied with hand washing and drying facilities, we could make a real difference to the public health of our nation, particularly at this time of year when colds and flu are prevalent.”

More information about the importance of hand hygiene is available on the RSPH website .

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Notes for editors
About World Toilet Day
World Toilet Day (November 19, 2008) exists to raise awareness of the need for good sanitation throughout the world, with renewed urgency in this International Year of Sanitation. Over 2½ billion people worldwide are estimated to be without access to a safe way to dispose of human waste(4). And this figure has scarcely changed in the last decade: it is probably increasing(5).

About the Royal Society for Public Health
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is an independent, multi-disciplinary organisation, dedicated to the promotion and protection of collective human health and wellbeing. Through advocacy, mediation, empowerment, knowledge and practice, it advises on policy development, provides education and training services, encourages scientific research, disseminates information and certifies products, training centres and processes. The RSPH enjoys the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen, is a registered charity, and the oldest public health body in the world, with over 150 years experience in protecting and promoting public health.

1. Survey data based on 500 people in August and September 2007 undertaken by Dyson Ltd.

2. Health Protection Agency: Health protection in the 21st century. HPA 2005: estimates 5.5 million consultations a year for acute respiratory infections, costing £170 million

3. Curtis V, Cairncross S. Effects of washing hands with soap on diarrhoeal risk in the community: a systemic review. The Lancet Infectious Diseases 2003;3:275-281

4. WaterAid:

5. WHO/UNICEF Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment Report (2000) estimated that 1.6 billion people lacked access to water supply in 2000, and 2.2 billion lacked access to sanitation. WHO/UNICEF estimate that by 2015 an additional 1.6 billion people will need access to water supply, and 2.2 billion sanitation. Hence, the projected total number of people requiring access between 2000-2015 is 3.2 billion for water supply and 4.4 billion for sanitation.

For further information, please contact:
Alison Gehring, marketing executive
Royal Society for Public Health
Tel: 020 7291 8358

Media contacts

Alison Gehring, marketing executive
Tel: 020 7291 8358

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