You would probably stifle a yawn if somebody were to tell you that India is one of the least hygienic countries in the world. So what’s new? While our civic sense may be abysmal, don’t we all pride ourselves on having spick and span homes, and in particular gleaming kitchens? As it turns out, that kitchen may not be any cleaner than your bathroom.
Filthy kitchens, actually
According to a study carried out by the Global Hygiene Council late last year, 62 per cent of the kitchen surfaces in India are heavily contaminated with bacteria. We also have the dirtiest kitchen sink, among the rest of the six countries tested which included the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
Our kitchen cloths too emerged as the dirtiest among all the tested nations. As opposed to 40 per cent of Germany’s kitchen cloths, all of ours — a 100 per cent — were found to be contaminated with germs including the dangerous E. coli bacteria.
Ninety per cent of our kitchen counters are heavily contaminated, and 85 per cent of our kitchen taps are teeming with germs like the staphylococcus aureus, responsible for respiratory and urinary tract infections and food poisoning, and the dangerous E. coli, which can cause several digestive disorders. Refrigerator handles aren’t far behind; 79 per cent of them are heavily contaminated, with over half of them swarming with E. coli bacteria.
Even workplaces are as infested with disease-causing germs. Dr Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist found the office desk surface is home to no less than 20,961 live microbes per square inch while the telephone can have as many as 25,127 live microbes per square inch. “Desks are really bacteria cafeterias,” said Dr Gerba in his Germs in the workplace study conducted in 2007. “They’re breakfast buffets, lunch tables and snack bars for bacteria, as we spend more and more hours at the office.”
How this affects you
Do all these germs crawling in your kitchen and office desk mean you are walking over a sea of infections on a tightrope? How seriously should we take all these figures?
“You needn’t worry too much as long as you make sure these bacteria don’t enter your stomach by adopting a proper hand washing technique. From homes to hospital ICUs, hand washing is a tried and tested way to keep down bacterial infection levels,” says Dr Shalini Suralkar, consultant general physician, Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital.
That, coupled with drinking boiled water (fast boiled for 10-15 minutes), she says, should keep the bacterial infection risk down to the minimum level.