We had some people over for the holidays and after they left, my wife went to tidy up our guest bathroom. Before they arrived, she had put a new carefully folded Christmas towel on the rack. Although all of our guests used the bathroom at some point in the evening (some more than once), she discovered that neither that towel nor others on the washstand had been touched.
None of our guests had washed their hands!
Failure to wash one’s hands is not all that uncommon among the general population. I see many men leave public restrooms at movie theatres, airports, and sports arenas without first washing their hands. It is such a common site that I generally don’t think much about it.
An unusual observation
Last year while attending the Western Pool and Spa show, I noticed something strange. Every single pool man that I saw in the restroom, over the course of the three day event, washed their hands before leaving.
Why would these pool men wash their hands 100% of the time, while in the general population, the rate is much less?
Then I recalled my CPO (Certified Pool Operator) training, and I began to reflect on how unique a pool guy’s expertise is. Pool guys know about both sanitization and filtration, and both of these are key.
In the CPO course we learned that E. coli is a strain of bacteria that lives naturally and harmlessly in the lower intestines of healthy humans. Problems arise, however, if E. coli gets ingested. Then, it is out of place in the entrance to our digestive system and causes problems such as diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps.
Now, some people might think that a well placed piece of toilet paper will keep the E. coli that is in human waste from contaminating one’s fingers. If their hands look clean they may figure they don’t need to wash them. But, to see why this logic is flawed, let’s look at another area of pool guy expertise.
E. coli is a bacteria that is about 1 micron in diameter; this is incredibly tiny. It is so small that it can pass through even the finest DE pool filter that can only filter down to about 4 microns. It will also easily pass through a paper pool cartridge filter that can only filter to about 15 microns. Now, let us assume that toilet paper can filter as well as a paper cartridge filter (even though it probably is not this good). To a 1 micron E. coli bacteria, a 15 micron filter looks as wide open as an open garage door looks to a human. The bacteria just goes right through. I wonder if most doctors and nurses trained in sanitization, but in not filtration, even think about this.
The pool guy’s unique expertise
The pool guy’s unique combination of knowledge of sanitization combined with knowledge of filtration probably explains why all the pool guys at the convention washed their hands after using the restroom. As pool guys, we need to share our unique expertise with a wider audience. Public health depends upon it.
Here’s to a healthier 2010!