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Posts Tagged ‘hand washing’

Competition in the Bathroom

For many years, a common graffito in men’s rooms was: “Wash hands, place hands under blow dryer, dry hands on pants.”  The old-fashioned low-powered dryers didn’t have enough power to dry hands well in any reasonable amount of time.  No more: about 10 years ago the Dyson Airblade was marketed, and it was revolutionary:  10 or 15 seconds and one’s hands really were dry.

I assume that they were expensive, which is why I only saw them in a few places, even in the U.K., where they originated. Today they are much more widespread.  They aren’t cheap (I see a discounted price of £615), but I bet they have come down in price.  Why?  The answer is competition: other companies are now making equally effective products, both in the U.S. and the U.K. An innovating entrepreneur may enjoy a monopoly for a while, but competitors with similar products will enter the market, forcing prices down (and increasing consumer surplus for now dry-handed users like me!).

Why Are Restroom Hand-Washing Signs By the Sinks?

All over America, restrooms for the public (for example, in restaurants or public parks) have signs warning and exhorting us that “Employees must wash hands before returning to work” or “Hand-washing stops the flu!” These are useful public-health messages. However, in almost every restroom I’ve been to, the sign stares at you from the mirror behind the sinks. What is the point of reminding the already hygiene-conscious to wash their hands?

But in the San Francisco airport a few days ago, I finally found a “Clean hands, good health!” sign at the restroom exit door. I don’t know whether it ever caused someone to U-turn and head for the sinks, but at least it isn’t carrying coals to Newcastle.

How to Get Doctors to Wash Their Hands, Visual Edition

In our latest podcast “What Do Hand-Washing and Financial Illiteracy Have in Common?,” we revisited a topic we wrote about a few years back: how one hospital (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles) has tried to increase the rate of hand hygiene among its doctors. In the podcast, chief medical officer Michael Langberg regretfully reported that his doctors, like many doctors, routinely failed to wash their hands. Cedars-Sinai came up with a series of computer screensavers and posters that, along with some other creative measures, significantly jacked up the hand-hygiene rate.

How to Open a Public-Restroom Door

Exiting a public restroom can be tricky. Touching a doorknob or push-plate means you take a chance of picking up a lot of terms. If you use a paper towel, you have to find someplace to throw it away.

Busting Docs Who Don't Wash Their Hands

Here’s an interesting method of combating the hand-hygiene problem discussed at length in SuperFreakonomics: “A doctor enters a hospital room to examine a patient, but neglects to wash her hands. A special badge on her lab coat turns a deep shade of red as wireless computer components in the door, the soap dispenser and near the bed immediately relay information about the unwashed hands. The doctor is busted.”

Cold, Hard Cash as a Handwashing Incentive

Whenever you write a book, it’s interesting to see which parts of it people respond to en masse. With SuperFreakonomics, the global-warming chapter has certainly gotten its fair share of attention, and Levitt noted a lot of feedback about the perils of drunk walking.

The FREAK-est Links

Are performance-based pay structures partly to blame for the mortgage crisis? Do our tastes in entertainment correspond to our political views? Do behavioral problems in kindergarten affect future school performance? Are there hazards to washing your hands? (Earlier)

The Case of the Missing Diamond Ring

I heard an interesting story recently. A woman at a dinner party said that her mother (let’s call her Jane) was having lunch at a well-known and expensive New York restaurant when she went to the ladies’ room. While washing her hands, she made the cardinal sin of removing her diamond ring, and then forgot to retrieve it before she . . .

FREAK-TV: ‘Do Doctors Wash Their Hands?’

Video Our International Woman of Mystery returns in a new video, “Do Doctors Wash Their Hands?” Here’s a column we wrote on the subject, and here’s some recent bad news. For a real time warp, read this 1859 essay by Ignaz Semmelweis, and ask yourself why on earth we are still talking about hand washing.

The FREAK-est Links

L.A., New York have most expensive traffic. (Earlier) U.S. hand washing on the decline. (Earlier) Homeland Security explores Russian mind-control techniques. (HT: BoingBoing) “Virtual fence” flops at the border.