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Washed your hands?

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A recent study found that most people neglect this vital aspect of personal hygiene

It is bad karma. You lied when Mom asked if you washed your hands before piling up your plate with puris. In adulthood, you’re hauled into Chola Sheraton one early afternoon for a lecture on sanitation and hygiene. Mr. Sethi, Chairman and MD, Reckitt Beckiser, tells you cleanliness in Indian homes, across all distinctions, falls alarmingly short of “satisfactory” limits. He cites the clinical results of a study done by the Global Hygiene Council, supported by Dettol, to expose poor personal habits and awful housekeeping. “Wash your hands!” he commands, “to reduce the risk of skin and eye infections, diarrhoea, cough and cold. Save yourself from bacterial contamination!”

Thought your fever and sneeze germs came only from garbage-covered roads and poorly ventilated workplaces? Think again. The In-home Swabbing Study says nearly 80 per cent of the surfaces in your home should be quarantined. Shockingly, it’s your kitchen that has been colonised by carrier germs. Forget the rubbish bin — the cooking surface, the kitchen sink and the taps have large germ-covered areas; the kitchen cloth is heaven for germs! Contamination-causing bacteria are brewing in your fridge. Visibly clean surfaces have armies of invisible E-coli ready for attack. (Computer peripherals are another story.) Germs that don’t like your kitchen décor live on the bathroom taps, sink and toilet seats. For a spot of entertainment, they move to the toys your kids play with. Our homes are well and truly bugged!

And we don’t have a clue! We completely miss out on the monsters lurking at home. In an independent consumer survey organised by the company, less than 10 per cent of the respondents considered the kitchen platform a danger zone. Almost 20 per cent surveyed did not wash their hands before/after handling food, 50 per cent did not do so after coughing or sneezing. (Want to shake hands again?) Even those who washed used just water. Not good, not good.

An awareness campaign for the public was launched in 2006. Called Dettol Surakshit Parivar, it would give young mothers tips on washing bottles, washing hands before/after nappy changing and cleaning themselves before breast-feeding, along with a Dettol kit and a booklet. Primary school kids would have educative leaflets and would be asked to keep a diary of when and how they washed (for a future horror script?). The hospital programme would focus on nurses. This year, smaller towns across the four southern states will get a good sniff of the Dettol drive that will teach handwashing techniques. “Our consumer touch programme will tell people how germs are transferred over frequently touched surfaces,” Mr. Sethi said.

A glossy book “Setting Hygiene Standards for a Healthy Home” – yeah, has a non-stick surface – was released. It tells you the what, when, why, where, and how of keeping your home spotless. In detail, with believable examples! A home-maker flipped through and yelled, “When do I get to cook?” Well…

So set right your hygiene quotient. Before you go to bed, wash the kid’s toys, wash the kitchen cloth, wash home surfaces that might attract germs. With soap. Then scrub your hands well. Or a TV actor will barge into your house and demand to check your toilet seat.

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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