Food Processing Sanitation Experts

The Danger Lurking in Your Soap Dispenser

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Editor’s note: This summary article was extracted from an article title “Danger in the soap dispenser,” written by Dave Shoemaker and originally appeared in Cleaning & Maintenance Magazine.

There has been an increase in the amount of scientific evidence that backs the idea that refillable bulk soap dispensers may be counter acting your efforts to help create a clean and healthy working environment.

Many years ago facility managers had converted from bar soaps to refillable dispensers. Now mangers are starting to make a change from refillable bulk soap dispensers to sealed dispensing systems. This will allow facility managers to help eliminate health hazards, while experiencing the perks that comes with sealed dispensing systems.

In recent years, science has been able to prove to us that hand hygiene is worsened due to poor practices of refilling bulk soap dispensers.

So what has science been able to expose? Studies have been able to prove that individuals using soap from a refillable bulk dispensers are not being guaranteed a full hand cleaning. Scientists have discovered that refillable bulk soap dispensers can be infected easily by disease causing bacteria. The truth of the matter is we cannot guarantee that individuals are decreasing the amount of germs on their hands by using soap from a refillable bulk dispenser. It is proven that people actually leave the rest room with more germs on their hands than the amount they had on their hands prior to washing.

Recently a study was conducted by scientist John Yabloniski of Bio-Control Consultants. The study tracked refillable bulk soap dispensers at a new school located in New Jersey. The study had shown that all of the newly-installed refillable bulk soap dispensers had gone from clean to exceptionally contaminated during normal use in just a matter of months. Other studies have shown that in numerous amounts of buildings, the contamination rate can be as high as 90 percent.

In the March 2011, Journal of Environmental Health published a study which showed that one in four bulk soap dispensers are infected with hazardous levels of bacteria. They also found that there was zero contamination found within sealed dispensing systems.

A follow up study was published in the May 2011 issue called Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The study showed that washing with soap from a refillable bulk dispenser can be harmful. It can leave your hands with 25 times more bacteria on them after washing, which can easily spread to other areas.

A more recent study in the January 2012 issue of Biofouling provided some intriguing information. The study discovered that once the dispensers are contaminated, bacterial “biofilm” returns to the inside of them even after unusual cleanings. The study determines that not even bleach is strong enough to get rid of the contamination permanently.

There has been a growing awareness of the issues that have been set forth. People are starting to see the risk, as there are a numerous increase in studies, including bulk soap contamination work by microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba, from the University of Arizona and other academics. One of the major concerns for owners/managers is public trust.

The bacteria found within contaminated bulk soap dispensers are pathogens that are frequently the cause of illnesses such as respiratory, blood, and wound infections.

So what is some advice for facility owners/managers? The first thing they should do is protect the health of the workers by converting to the use of sealed soap dispenser systems. Newer sealed systems feature clean and modern-looking designs. The appearance of these develops an image that encourages people to use them. Another suggestion in order to help better hand hygiene would be to go completely touch-free with dispensing systems. This allows for an easy use without having to touch the dispenser and risk the chance of contamination. This also gives people the right amount, without being wasteful.

After reading this and knowing the issues at hand, it only makes sense for QA Managers, Sanitation Managers, and ECT to start converting from bulk refillable dispensers, to sealed systems. By acknowledging the issues presented, they should now be able to attack the goal of having complete hand wash compliance. This will ultimately result in avoiding contaminations and recalls.

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