NSF International reports that American children are back in school, but homework isn’t all they’re bringing home — they’re likely bringing home thousands of microscopic germs. NSF International (NSF), an independent, not-for-profit organization, recently collected and tested samples and found as many as 2.7 million bacterial cells per square inch on common school surfaces such as water fountains, desks, computer keyboards, bus seats and cafeteria trays.
NSF’s startling findings include:
* Drinking water fountain spigots had the highest amount of bacteria on the tested surfaces — 2.7 million bacterial cells per square inch.
* A cafeteria tray had more than ten times as many germs as a toilet seat (33,800 bacterial cells per square inch vs. 3,200 bacterial cells per square inch).
* A student’s hand had 1,500 bacterial cells per square inch.
* Commonly cleaned areas, such as desks and doorknobs had fewer germs (19 bacterial cells per square inch and 5 bacterial cells per square inch respectively), while computer keyboards and ear phones had significantly more at 260 bacterial cells per square inch and 740 bacterial cells per square inch respectively.
While not all germs are harmful, their existence suggests the presence of viruses and bacteria that can lead to the common cold and flu, or even serious foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and Salmonella. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 164 million days of school are lost each year due to illness — up to half of which could be eliminated with proper handwashing.
Handwashing Help from the Scrub Club
Developed by NSF International, The Scrub Club(TM) (http://www.scrubclub.org) provides a fun way for kids to learn the importance of handwashing to fight infectious and foodborne diseases. Each of the Scrub Club kids represents one of the six steps in the handwashing process — “Hot Shot” and “Chill” combine to make the warm water essential for proper handwashing; “Squeaks” turns into various forms of soap; “Taki” becomes a clock that counts down the required 20 seconds for proper handwashing; “Scruff” reminds kids to clean around their nails; “Tank” turns into a sink to rinse away the germs and “P.T.” transforms into paper towels.