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Mom taught us to wash our hands after using the bathroom, or before handling food, right? But what if refillable soap containers spread more bacteria than the soap kills? What is soap bacteria, anyway?
Recent research has revealed that as many as one in four refillable soap dispensers in public bathrooms contain bacteria that can cause illness, reports Medcape.com.
And a new study found one Ohio elementary school where every soap dispenser contained bacteria known to cause illness, reports msnbc.com.
But nobody is suggesting to stop washing your hands.
"There is no need to panic. I want people to wash their hands because hand washing is proven to be effective at preventing sickness. We don't know what the true risk level is in the community," Carrie Zapka, a microbiologist at Gojo Industries, told MSNBC.com.
Zapka's researchers went to a nearby elementary school, where they found all 14 of the school's dispensers had never been cleaned or sanitized. All were contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria. They replaced the dispensers with sealed versions, and a year later the dispensers were still contamination-free, reports MSNBC.com.
In one experiment, subjects washed their hands for 10 seconds using liquid soap. When students and staff washed their hands from dispensers with sealed refills, the researchers noted a two-fold reduction in bacteria on hands, reports Medscape.com.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that soap dispensers should not be "topped off" by adding additional soap to a partially filled container, reports Medscape.com. Such topping off increases the risk of spreading bacteria through using the soap to wash one's hands.