It’s all about the sprayer arms.
Daniel Wroclawski reviewed.com 1/19/15
We’ve got it all wrong folks. A new study in the Chemical Engineering Journal has discovered the best way to load a dishwasher, and we weren’t even close.
Digital Trends reports that it’s all about what’s on the dirty dishes, specifically proteins and carbohydrates. Dishes covered in carbs like pasta should be placed in a circle in the center of your dishwasher, following the rotating sprayer arms of the machine.
As for protein-covered dishes, they should stay along the edges of the dishwasher, where they can spend more time getting sudsed up. And don’t even think about overloading your dishwasher. This inhibits water flow in the machine, preventing dishes from getting clean.
It’s all about what’s on the dirty dishes, specifically proteins and carbohydrates.
The study was led by Dr. Raul Pérez-Mohedano of the University of Birmingham, but industry giants Whirlpool and Procter & Gamble also collaborated on the study, suggesting the research could ultimately benefit dishwasher design, as well as research into different kinds of detergent.
The study came to these conclusions using Positron Emission Particle Tracking, which sounds more like atom smashing, but it’s really just a way of tracking the motion of water inside the dishwasher. It’s a shame—atom smashing would be a much cooler way of cleaning dishes.
NICHOLAS BAKALAR NY Times.com 7/30/14
Weak handshakes are often frowned upon, but they may be healthier than firm ones. A fist bump, though, may be an even healthier choice.
British researchers did a simple experiment. After dipping a gloved hand into a dense culture of Escherichia coli, a bacterium commonly found in human intestines, an experimenter shook hands, bumped fists or high-fived with a person wearing a sterile glove. They repeated the tests several times and analyzed the gloves for transmission of germs. The results were published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.
About twice as many bacteria were transferred to the clean glove with a handshake as with a high-five, and the fist bump consistently produced the lowest transmission of all.
They then did the fist bump and high-five tests with three more seconds of contact, and tested various pressures and durations for the handshake. Prolonging the high-five had little effect, but making the fist bump three seconds longer significantly increased the transfer of bacteria. A strong handshake (as measured with a dynamometer) was especially effective, moving germs hand to hand in almost twice the quantities of a moderate handshake.
Hand hygiene is a serious problem in hospitals, and a recent editorial in JAMA suggested that handshakes in health care facilities should be banned.
“If someone extends a hand, of course you shake,” said the lead author, Sara Mela, a Ph.D. candidate at Aberystwyth University in Wales, “but in certain environments — hospitals in particular, where are there a large number of disease-causing organisms and many people at risk — you ought to think about what’s happening when you have direct contact.”
Jessica Roy 11/14/13 Time.com
Two Belgian university professors decided to apply their knowledge of toxicology screenings to the 10 most borrowed books at the Antwerp library. Each book underwent bacteriology and toxicology tests, and the findings reveal that library books are even more germ-covered than you expected.
While the experts found that all 10 books contained traces of cocaine–enough so that people who touched the books wouldn’t feel the effects, but might test positive for the drug–they also found something pretty gross: Fifty Shades of Grey, your weird aunt’s favorite mainstream erotic series, tested positive for traces of the herpes virus.
The professors assured everyone that concentrations of the virus were so minimal that there is no public health risk and it would be impossible for people to contract it by touching the book. Still, something to keep in mind next time you consider taking trashy erotica out of the public library.
JANE E. BRODY 8/26/13 NY Times
Each year, one in six Americans becomes sick from eating contaminated food. But while outbreaks of food-borne illness linked to processing plants or imported products capture the public’s attention and raise fears about the safety of the food supply, as many as 70 percent of food poisoning cases originate in the kitchen.
People, not products, are the main cause of food-borne illnesses, and they can be avoided by following certain basic principles of food safety.
Unfortunately, some of the best advice, like using disposable paper towels in place of reusable cloths and sponges, butts headfirst against modern efforts to be “green.” Other measures, like discarding leftovers after two days, are antithetical to the “waste not, want not” philosophy I was raised on. (Just before writing this paragraph, I reheated and ate a plate of delicious well-cooked leftovers that I had prepared for a dinner party six days earlier and promptly refrigerated.)
Still, there are many noncontentious steps that can be taken to minimize the risk that anyone will be sickened by the food you buy and prepare.
SHOPPING Seek stores that are clean, well-organized and appear to have high product turnover: you can tell partly by checking the expiration and sell-by dates on the goods. Reject expired products and those in damaged or leaking packages. Don’t buy more perishables than you can use.
Pick up dry products first, then those that should be kept cold or frozen. In warm weather, or if there will be delays getting home, bring a cooler with ice or a freezer pack to keep items cold. Put all raw meats, poultry and fish in separate plastic bags before placing them in the shopping cart. At checkout, have them bagged separately from the dry foods and produce.
STORAGE Separate raw meats, poultry and fish from other foods in the refrigerator, placing them on the lowest shelf, in a bin or on a tray to prevent dripping. Freeze meats that will not be cooked within two or three days. Use eggs within three to five weeks of purchase. In the pantry, place newly bought products behind older ones, which should be used first.
Place thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer, if they are not built in. Make sure the temperatures are at or below 40 degrees in the refrigerator and 2 degrees in the freezer. Defrost all uncooked foods in the refrigerator, the microwave or in a bowl of ice water.
PREPARATION Start by washing your hands with soap and warm water. Pin long hair back or cover it; remove rings and bracelets, and put on a clean apron.
If you should sneeze, have to blow your nose or use the bathroom while working with food, wash your hands again. Half of people harbor the infectious Staphylococcus bacteria in their nasal passages. Also wash if you pet the dog or hand-feed it while preparing food.
Wash all produce, including melons, lemons and limes and fruits that will be peeled, before picking up a knife. If the fruit’s surface contains infectious organisms, they can spread to its flesh when the fruit is cut.
Although some suggest that poultry and meats not be rinsed lest they contaminate the sink, I find that hard to avoid. Instead, I rinse them, then clean the sink with a bleach spray. And I do use clean paper towels to dry raw food.
Work on well-washed cutting boards, using separate ones for produce and raw animal products. I use plastic boards that can be cleaned with a bleach spray or in the dishwasher, but wood is fine as long as all implements and boards are washed immediately after each chore. Never reuse an unwashed knife, plate or board on cooked food that was in contact with raw food without washing it first. Cross-contamination from raw to cooked food is a common cause of food-borne illness.
If making dishes a day or more ahead, cover them well, chill them quickly, and keep them cold until it is time to reheat or serve.
COOKING You can’t always tell if a food is contaminated by its appearance: foods containing harmful organisms can look, smell and taste O.K. A goal of cooking is to destroy most infectious organisms.
It’s best to use a food thermometer and to heed recommended final temperatures when preparing meats, poultry, fish and seafood, and eggs. Whole cuts of beef, veal and lamb should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees, followed by a three-minute rest off the heat; pork and fresh ham should reach 145 degrees, followed by a three-minute rest (heat precooked ham to 140 degrees).
Ground meats should reach 160 degrees; poultry (whole or ground), 165 degrees and fish, 145 degrees (or until it is opaque and separates easily with a fork). Shrimp, lobster and crab should be cooked until the flesh is pearly and opaque. Clams, mussels and oysters should be cooked until the shells open, and scallops until the flesh is milky white or opaque and firm. Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm, and cook egg dishes to 160 degrees.
If a recipe calls for raw or partly cooked eggs in a dish that will not be cooked (like eggnog, mayonnaise or Caesar salad dressing), use only pasteurized eggs, which are available in most large markets.
If you taste a dish while cooking, use a clean spoon each time.
If serving foods buffet-style over a period of hours, use hot plates or cold trays. Leftovers should be refrigerated as soon as possible. Reheat leftover meats and other animal products to 165 degrees.
CLEANING You don’t have to become a clean freak; some exposure to infectious organisms is necessary for a healthy immune system. But do take steps to reduce the risk of food-borne illness.
Kitchen sponges and dishcloths are notorious for harboring and breeding germs. Wash them often in the dishwasher or in the sink with hot, soapy water, or clean them with a bleach solution. Never wipe the floor with sponges used on countertops and food preparation equipment.Consider investing in a large package of microfiber cloths. Use separate cloths for the floor, counters and to dry utensils. Put soiled cloths in the laundry.
When hand-washing dishes and pots, use very hot water and put them on a rack to air-dry. Damp dish towels can harbor bacteria.
Thoroughly clean the refrigerator, stovetop and countertops often. I use a bleach solution on most surfaces, especially those that come in contact with foods.
Prevention Magazine 6/14/13
An average adult can touch as many as 30 objects within a minute, including germ-harboring, high-traffic surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, phone receivers, and remote controls. At home, you do all that you can to keep the germs at bay. But what happens when you step out the door to go to dinner, do some grocery shopping, or visit the doctor’s office? It’s not pretty.
Here’s where germs are most likely to lurk—and how you can limit your exposure.
Have you ever seen anyone wash off a menu? Probably not. A study in the Journal of Medical Virology reported that cold and flu viruses can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces. If it’s a popular restaurant, hundreds of people could be handling the menus—and passing their germs on to you. Never let a menu touch your plate or silverware, and wash your hands after you place your order.
According to a 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70 percent of the lemon wedges perched on the rims of restaurant glasses contain disease-causing microbes. When the researchers ordered drinks at 21 different restaurants, they found 25 different microorganisms lingering on the 76 lemons that they secured, including E. coli and other fecal bacteria. Tell your server that you’d prefer your beverage sans fruit. Why risk it? (You might want to skip the diet soda while you’re at it; learn about 7 gross side effects of diet soda.)
It’s the rare eatery that regularly bleaches its condiment containers. And the reality is that many people don’t wash their hands before eating, said Kelly Reynolds, an associate professor in the community, environment and policy division of the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. So while you may be diligent, the guy who poured the ketchup before you may not have been, which means his germs are now on your fries. Squirt hand sanitizer on the outside of the condiment bottle or use a disinfectant wipe before you grab it. Holding the bottle with a napkin won’t help; napkins are porous, so microorganisms can pass right through, Reynolds said.
Restroom door handles
Don’t think you can escape the restroom without touching the door handle? Palm a spare paper towel after you wash up and use it to grasp the handle. Yes, other patrons may think you’re a germ-phobe—but you’ll never see them again, and you’re the one who won’t get sick.
About 25 percent of public restroom dispensers are contaminated with fecal bacteria. Soap that harbors bacteria may seem ironic, but that’s exactly what a recent study found. “Most of these containers are never cleaned, so bacteria grow as the soap scum builds up,” said Charles Gerba, an adjunct professor in the division of environmental health at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “And the bottoms are touched by dirty hands, so there’s a continuous culture feeding millions of bacteria.” Be sure to scrub hands thoroughly with plenty of hot water for 15 to 20 seconds—and if you happen to have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, use that, too. (Prefer a more natural route? Check out this DIY natural, effective hand sanitizer.)
The handles of almost two-thirds of the shopping carts tested in a 2007 study at the University of Arizona were contaminated with fecal bacteria. In fact, the bacterial counts of the carts exceeded those of the average public restroom. Swab the handle with a disinfectant wipe before grabbing hold (stores are starting to provide them, so look around for a dispenser). And while you’re wheeling around the supermarket, skip the free food samples, which are nothing more than communal hand-to-germ-to-mouth zones.
When Gerba tested for microbes in the bathrooms of commercial jets, he found surfaces from faucets to doorknobs to be contaminated with E. coli. It’s not surprising, then, that you’re 100 times more likely to catch a cold when you’re airborne, according to a recent study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research. To protect yourself, try taking green tea supplements. In a 2007 study from the University of Florida, people who took a 450-milligram green tea supplement twice a day for 3 months had one-third fewer days of cold symptoms. (See what other supplements you need with the 100 Best Supplements For Women).
A doctor’s office is not the place to be if you’re trying to avoid germs. These tips can help limit your exposure.
1. Take your own books and magazines (and kid’s toys, if you have your children or grandchildren with you).
2. Pack your own tissues and hand sanitizers, which should be at least 60 percent alcohol content.
3. In the waiting room, leave at least two chairs between you and the other patients to reduce your chances of picking up their bugs. Germ droplets from coughing and sneezing can travel about 3 feet before falling to the floor.
ABIGAIL ZUGER, M.D. 09/10/12 NY Times
Never fall in love. Oh, well, go ahead, if you must, but make sure you fall for a living being. A romance with anything else, be it a pair of shoes or a scientific theory, is only asking for trouble, so seldom will the inanimate beloved live up to your besotted expectations.
The best scientists struggle with this prohibition daily, knowing that even the most seductive data may well disappoint. But premature enthusiasm is routine among others, patients and their doctors foremost among them, with journalists smelling a scoop not far behind.
Moises Velasquez-Manoff — a journalist and also, as it happens, a patient — has fallen hard for an idea known as the hygiene hypothesis, whose implications, if followed out along a widely branching chain of extended supposition, threaten to unravel much of what we think we know about health and disease.
This hypothesis argues that our modern obsession with eradicating germs has backfired into an explosion of disease, specifically all the “new” diseases that have replaced infections to undermine our health. The modern immune system, the idea holds, is stymied by the sudden absence of its customary microbial targets. With nothing constructive to do, it is crazily spinning its wheels, resulting in soaring rates of food allergies and asthma, arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes, even heart disease and cancer — not to mention alopecia, the premature baldness from which Mr. Velasquez-Manoff suffers and which led him to the subject in the first place. (In an opinion article in The New York Times last month, he suggested that an immune disorder might account for many cases of autism.)
Clearly, if true, the hygiene hypothesis is the single greatest medical story of our time, undercutting a century of putative progress. Is it true? Probably some of it is. But Mr. Velasquez-Manoff’s ambitious compendium of data and supposition — a great dense fruitcake of a book whose 680 endnotes, the author notes apologetically, refer to only a minority of the 10,000 studies he consulted — spins it all out in the most positive possible way with an energy, eloquence and desire to believe that is both breathtaking and a little scary.
A human being, the proponents of the hypothesis argue, is not really an individual. Instead, each person is a “superorganism,” a large creature subsuming many billions of smaller ones, most of them intestinal microbes. Thriving in the colon, these “old friends” that have been with us since time immemorial are as important to our health as a limb or an organ. Altering their numbers, whether with sanitary measures, antibiotics or deworming pills, is analogous to fooling around with the liver or the spleen.
And that doesn’t just mean that antibiotics may cause ruinous diarrhea. The microbes in the intestine, the hypothesis holds, educate the immune cells that travel all over the body, and any major alteration in the intestine sends some wild and crazy cells out there to wreak havoc unpoliced.
The genetic and immunologic details behind these assertions are immensely complex, but enough experimental confirmation exists to keep scientists at prestigious institutions around the world deeply engaged in sorting it out.
Other data are equally intriguing. Among them: Allergic and autoimmune conditions are far more frequent in rich countries than poor ones, even among genetically identical populations (West Germany far outpaced East Germany in their frequency, as does Finland compared with an impoverished adjacent territory under Russian control). Societies where intestinal parasites are the rule seem to lack them completely.
A misfiring immune response has long been known to explain conditions like multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammation of the intestine. But some preliminary observations extend the immune connection to illnesses usually considered to be unrelated, obesity and depression among them.
“Is fecotherapy the wave of the future?” Mr. Velasquez-Manoff asks. Does our path to good health lie in breathing microbe-rich dust and regaining the fecal content of our ancestors (while avoiding, of course, the disabling chronic illness that often went along)?
Scientists are now beginning to treat various illnesses with probiotics, various combinations of “good” intestinal bacteria. So far results are mixed: some good, some inconclusive.
Enthusiastic patients, however, enabled by the usual cast of shady entrepreneurs, have predictably skipped the long, dull validation process and are busily infecting themselves with a variety of intestinal worms.
Mr. Velasquez-Manoff details their cases at length: Lisa’s Crohn’s disease improved with whipworm. Hookworm sent Dan’s multiple sclerosis into remission, and likewise Josh’s psoriasis. A bad case of chiggers calmed Lawrence’s autistic outbursts, and whipworm infusions have improved him further still. The meaning of these isolated cases is entirely unclear, but Mr. Velasquez-Manoff follows the tenuous thread of possibility out to the horizon: Possibly, autism can be averted with something “as simple as a probiotic given to Mom” during pregnancy, he notes. Could the best treatment for depression be “microbes from a donor with a sunny disposition”?
He himself joined the “hookworm underground” in the name of research and possibly of a new head of hair, but found the intestinal side effects intolerable and the benefits small (smooth skin and clear sinuses; he is still bald).
Even the most critical reader has to give Mr. Velasquez-Manoff credit for the prodigious task he has undertaken as he shovels around reams of data, most of which he lacks the expertise to interpret. But it will take a dispassionate commentator with a better set of tools to extract the gold from the dross.
One of the world’s largest hotel chains, Best Western International, is attacking the assumption that mid-scale hotel rooms are often beset by unseen germs and filth.
Under a new program, housekeepers at more than 2,100 Best Western hotels in North America will be armed with ultraviolet sterilization wands and black lights to target overlooked grime and muck.
The wands will use ultraviolet light to sterilize areas that most often get touched by guests, including telephones, clocks, light switches and door handles. The black lights help housekeepers spot hard-to-see biological matter, including bodily fluid and food.
Housekeepers will also wipe clean the television remote controls and put them in holders to show that they have been sterilized.
It’s a common complaint: Fly on a crowded plane and come home with a cold. What’s in the air up there?
Air travelers suffer higher rates of disease infection, research has shown. One study pegged the increased risk for catching a cold as high as 20%. And the holidays are a particularly infectious time of year, with planes packed full of families with all their presents—and all those germs.
Air that is recirculated throughout the cabin is most often blamed. But studies have shown that high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters on most jets today can capture 99.97% of bacterial and virus-carrying particles. That said, when air circulation is shut down, which sometimes happens during long waits on the ground or for short periods when passengers are boarding or exiting, infections can spread like wildfire.
One well-known study in 1979 found that when a plane sat three hours with its engines off and no air circulating, 72% of the 54 people on board got sick within two days. The flu strain they had was traced to one passenger. For that reason, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an advisory in 2003 to airlines saying that passengers should be removed from planes within 30 minutes if there’s no air circulation, but compliance isn’t mandatory.
Much of the danger comes from the mouths, noses and hands of passengers sitting nearby. The hot zone for exposure is generally two seats beside, in front of and behind you, according to a study in July in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A number of factors increase the odds of bringing home a souvenir cough and runny nose. For one, the environment at 30,000 feet enables easier spread of disease. Air in airplanes is extremely dry, and viruses tend to thrive in low-humidity conditions. When mucous membranes dry out, they are far less effective at blocking infection. High altitudes can tire the body, and fatigue plays a role in making people more susceptible to catching colds, too.
Also, viruses and bacteria can live for hours on some surfaces—some viral particles have been found to be active up to a day in certain places. Tray tables can be contaminated, and seat-back pockets, which get stuffed with used tissues, soiled napkins and trash, can be particularly skuzzy. It’s also difficult to know what germs are lurking in an airline’s pillows and blankets.
Research has shown how easily disease can spread. Tracing influenza transmission on long-haul flights in 2009 with passengers infected with the H1N1 flu strain, Australian researchers found that 2% passengers had the disease during the flight and 5% came down within a week after landing. Coach-cabin passengers were at a 3.6% increased risk of contracting H1N1 if they sat within two rows of someone who had symptoms in-flight. That increased risk for post-flight disease doubled to 7.7% for passengers seated in a two-seat hot zone.
The epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-03 suggested a wider exposure zone, however. On one flight studied, one passenger spread a particular strain to someone seated seven rows away, while people seated next to the ill passenger didn’t contract the disease.
That said, most people sitting near someone who is ill probably won’t get sick. “When you get aboard an aircraft, most of us don’t have a say on who we sit next to. But that doesn’t doom you to catching the flu,” said Mark Gendreau of Boston’s Lahey Clinic Medical Center.
In 2005, he was part of a team that published a paper in the Lancet that concluded the perceived risk for travelers was higher than the actual risk, and that’s still the case today, he said.
Even so, there are some basic precautions passengers can take to keep coughs away.
Hydrate. Drinking water and keeping nasal passages moist with a saline spray can reduce your risk of infection.
Clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. We often infect ourselves, touching mouth, nose or eyes with our own hands that have picked up something.
Use a disinfecting wipe to clean off tray tables before using.
Avoid seat-back pockets.
Open your air vent, and aim it so it passes just in front of your face. Filtered airplane air can help direct airborne contagions away from you.
Change seats if you end up near a cougher, sneezer or someone who looks feverish. That may not be possible on very full flights, but worth a try. One sneeze can produce up to 30,000 droplets that can be propelled as far as six feet.
Raise concerns with the crew if air circulation is shut off for an extended period.
Avoid airline pillows and blankets (if you find them).
“If you take the proper precautions, you should do quite well,” said Dr. Gendreau. “In most of us, our immune system does what it was designed to do—protect us from infectious insults.”
Hidden Dangers in Security
You think the plane is bad? Security checkpoints harbor a host of hazards as well, researchers say.
People get bunched up in lines, where there is plenty of coughing and sneezing. Shoes are removed and placed with other belongings into plastic security bins, which typically don’t get cleaned after they go through the scanner.
A National Academy of Sciences panel is six months into a two-year study that is taking samples at airport areas to try to pinpoint opportunities for infection.
With limited resources, airports and airlines have asked researchers to help figure out where best to target prevention, said Dr. Mark Gendreau of Boston’s Lahey Clinic Medical Center who is on the panel.
Check-in kiosks and baggage areas are other prime suspects in addition to security lines, he said.