Celebrate Global Handwashing Day!

Sure, you make soap, but do you ever stop and think about what a fundamentally life-saving device you’re producing?  Next Monday, October 15, marks the 5th annual Global Handwashing Day.  In celebration, we thought we’d share a few facts illustrating the power of a simple bar of soap.

BAC graphic courtesy of NSF Scrub Club

A staggering 6.9 million children under the age of 5 die each year.  The good news is that this represents a 41% decrease over the last two decades, but clearly, there is room for much more improvement.  Aside from complications during birth, pneumonia and diarrhea are the two biggest killers of this age group.1 Here’s where soap comes into play: proper handwashing with soap and water has the power to prevent these two infectious diseases.2 For these children, using soap and water can mean the difference between life and death.  However, proper hygiene is not just a problem in developing nations.

Even in developed countries, lack of handwashing is an issue.  The World Health Organization estimated, in a 2004 report, that children lose 272 million school days worldwide to diarrhea.3 Handwashing with soap can cut diarrhea rates by up to 50%.4 Imagine how many days of school could be regained by washing hands with soap!

Children aren’t the only ones with handwashing issues; failure to wash hands in hospitals is the leading cause of infections in hospitals.  Nearly two dozen studies over the past 35 years have shown hand hygiene campaigns, including handwashing, in hospitals reduces infections contracted by patients.5

graphic courtesy of Choose Soap

With all the focus on bacteria reduction, it would seem antibacterial soap is necessary for a proper handwashing.  Happily, that’s not the case.  A simple handwashing with water and soap, as the Centers for Disease Control have shown6, is just as effective and likely much more environmentally friendly than using antibacterial soaps (triclosan, a key antibacterial agent, is also ecologically persistent).  So take up that beautiful bar of handcrafted soap, share one with a friend, and get to washing!  You can truly feel good about using soap.

Wow, did you know your soap could do all that?  We’re certainly feeling thankful for our soap.  Excuse us while we wash our hands now….

References:

  1. Levels & Trends in Child Mortality – Report 2012, UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, 2012
  2. Luby, Agboatwalla, Feikin, Painter, Billhimer, Altaf, Hoekstra, Effect of handwashing on child health: a randomised controlled trial, The Lancet, 2005
  3. Hutton, Guy, and Laurance Haller, Evaluation of the Costs and Benefits of Water and Sanitation Improvements at the Global Level, Water, Sanitation and Health Protection of the Human Environment, World Health Organization, Geneva, 2004
  4. Fewtrell et al. Infectious Diseases, The Lancet, 2005
  5. WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care: a Summary, World Health Organization, Geneva, 2009
  6. Aiello AE, Marshall B, Levy SB, Della-Latta P, Lin SX, Larson E, Antibacterial cleaning products and drug resistance, Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2005
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