With flu season in full swing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reiterates that the single most important preventative measure to help people avoid getting sick and spreading illness to others is through frequent handwashing.

The results of two recent surveys that were administered to get a sense of handwashing habits have brought clear evidence to the foreground that Americans have fallen below average in lathering up.

The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) recently released its second “Clean Hands Report Card,” and the United States received a “C-” for its handwashing tendencies. The mark is a downgrade from a “C” from the 2004 report.

The survey of 1,008 men and women found: 68 percent don't wash their hands long enough to effectively remove germs and dislodge dirt (worsened from 54 percent in 2004); 36 percent seldom never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing (slightly improved from 43 percent); and 31 percent don't always wash before eating lunch (similar).

“It’s more important than ever that people understand that clean hands save lives,” said Nancy Bock, SDA’s vice president of education. “It’s the places we’re at everyday where we need to protect ourselves the most — at home, at work and at school — anywhere we come in contact with other people’s germs.”

The report card surveyed Americans on basic hand hygiene practices, such as washing before a meal, after using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing. The report not only measured how many Americans wash daily, but for how long. The CDC recommends washing with soap for at least 20 seconds.

There may be a considerable gap when it comes to what people say and what they do. Ninety-two percent of Americans surveyed by the SDA said they always washed their hands after using the bathroom, while five percent said they frequently washed, and three percent said they seldom or never washed. A 2005 observational study commissioned by the SDA and the American Society for Microbiology found that just 83 percent of people washed their hands after using a public restroom.

NSF International, an independent, not-for-profit organization, recently conducted a survey of 500 K-5 teachers to evaluate the success of the battle against germs in U.S. elementary schools. According to the teacher survey, NSF found that nearly half of elementary school teachers (42 percent) say it’s more difficult to get students to use soap when washing their hands than it is to get them to do their homework, even though nearly all teachers (98 percent) talk to their students about the importance of handwashing.

“Handwashing is the easiest, most important thing we can do to prevent the spread of illness, but kids are kids and they don’t always remember to wash their hands when they should,” said William Fisher, vice president of NSF International. “What this survey found is that teachers in this country are doing their best to help educate students about the importance of handwashing. A key part of that is knowing where germs lurk and how proper handwashing will help fight illness.”

In the healthcare setting, handwashing can prevent potentially fatal infections from spreading from patient to patient, and from patient to healthcare worker and vice versa. Public health authorities have been working feverishly to try to contain an outbreak of the superbug Clostridium difficile in a Joliette, Quebec, hospital.

Recently, as many as 17 patients at the Lanaudiere regional hospital in Joliette, north of Montreal, have been diagnosed with C. difficile infections. The hospital, which had four patients die from the infection last year, placed patients in quarantine and cleaning teams are at work 24 hours a day at the hospital to try and prevent further infections. Security guards at each entrance demanded that each person who enters the hospital wash their hands.

C. difficile is the major causative agent of colitis and diarrhea that may occur following antibiotic intake, and represents one of the most common hospital infections around the world. The organism and its spores have been found lingering in the hospital environment: toilets, telephones, stethoscopes and hands of healthcare personnel.

Ten people died during an outbreak at another hospital in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, earlier this fall and a hospital in Drummondville, Quebec, recently reported three deaths. However, provincial health officials say the infection rate of C. difficile has dropped significantly since an epidemic broke out in 2003, when more than 7,000 cases were reported in Quebec.

Trucking Hit Hard By Costs
An international survey of 1,200 trucking industry leaders in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and France showed 70 percent feel fuel prices are putting their business at risk. Closely following were driver shortages, reported by 69 percent as a factor threatening business performance.

Carriers are searching for ways to pass increased costs along to shippers, which will eventually translate into higher consumer costs. In addition, they are looking at tightening supplier management, seeking alternative “green” initiatives and leasing trucks to free cash flow.

More than one-fifth of industry leaders surveyed said the driver shortage will affect their ability to deliver goods on time to existing customers and feel it will hinder their ability to take on additional business.

Water Efficiency Focus Of New EPA Partnership Program
With water supply a rising concern for communities across the country, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently launched a new partnership program, WaterSense, with hopes of stimulating more efficient use of water in homes and businesses.

Increasingly, water and wastewater utilities, industry, and agriculture are relying on water efficiency as a low-risk and low-cost option to help meet growing demands and environmental needs. WaterSense is a tool that would help reduce water and wastewater infrastructure costs while conserving valuable resources.

The need to develop a national ethic of water efficiency is understood by a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office survey, which reports that 36 states anticipate local, regional or statewide water shortages by 2013, even without drought conditions.

Independent testing will ensure that products carrying the WaterSense label save water without compromising performance. The projected savings for initial products — toilets, faucets, and irrigation controllers — is estimated to be 128 billion gallons per year, enough to supply water to 3.5 million people a year.


Three professional organizations have formed a joint committee to help drive green building into the mainstream building practices.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC); the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) formed the development of Standard 189P, scheduled for completion in 2007.

“We expect the new baseline standard to set a higher floor for all building practices and really bring green to the mainstream,” John Hogan, chair of the committee, said. “The benefits of green building – clean indoor air, thermal comfort and resource efficiency are benefits that are owed to everyone. We’re confident the process we’re following to develop this standard will make it well-received in the building community.”

The proposed standard will apply to new commercial buildings and major renovation projects. It will address sustainable sites, water use, energy efficiency, a building’s impact on the atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced its decision to exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act (CWA), causing a stir among environmental groups.

Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a Washington-based public health and environmental group, immediately criticized the EPA’s decision saying, “Studies, including one by the U.S. Geological Survey, ‘Water Quality in the Nation’s Streams and Aquifers Overview of Selected Findings, 1991-2001,’ released in 2006, suggest more protection is needed from pesticides not less.”

The EPA’s ruling allows exemption from the Clean Water Act under two specific situations where a permit with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) would not be necessary: The application of pesticides directly to waters of the U.S. to control pests (such as mosquito larvae or aquatic weeds); and the application of pesticides to control pests that are present over U.S. waters that result in a portion of the pesticide being deposited to water bodies (such as the spraying of insecticides over a forest canopy where water may be present).

According to Beyond Pesticides, the EPA’s action allows the weaker and more generalized standards under the FIFRA to trump the more stringent CWA standards.

CWA uses a health-based standard known as maximum contamination levels to protect waterways and requires permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams, while FIFRA uses a highly subjective risk assessment without any attention.


Perkins Inc., Taunton, Mass., has acquired Eastern Paper of New England, Hamden, Conn., a janitorial services and solutions company.

Perkins is closing the Hamden office and will lay off approximately one dozen employees. Eleven employees have been retained, including six sales representatives that will work from home.

Perkins expects the acquisition to result in a stronger presence in Connecticut.

The Colman Group Inc., Elkhorn, Wis., acquired Best Value Textiles (BVT), Englewood, Colo., a company that sells textile products through food service distribution.

The BVT acquisition is Colman’s fourth in the foodservice industry. BVT will remain headquartered in Englewood and will operate as an independent company.

DadePaper has acquired Spec-Chem-Co., Thomasville, Ga., a distributor of janitorial supplies and equipment.

The acquisition adds to DadePaper’s service in southern Georgia and fits with the company’s strategic expansion.

Spec-Chem-Co.’s staff will remain with the company as operations transition to DadePaper’s Jacksonville, Fla., facility.


New Book On Distributor-Supplier Relationships
The National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) recently released a new book titled “Working at Cross-Purposes: How Distributors and Manufacturers Can Manage Conflict Successfully.” The publication delves into what factors steer supplier-distributor relationships, as well as how often they go bad.

Tools that help distributors manage a relationship that is beneficial to them, as well as their suppliers, are also provided.

Health Concerns Drive Chemical Demand
A new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., projects the demand for industrial and institutional cleaning chemicals in the United States will increase 3.8 percent per year, approaching $10 billion in 2010.

The Cleveland-based industry research firm states that value gains will be boosted by the increasing market presence of multifunctional cleaning chemicals that offer sanitizing and other benefits.

Sanitizers and disinfectants are projected to record the fastest growth among the chemical types, because of heightened safety and health concerns over the spread of infectious diseases.

Holding Sales Staff Back Hurts Bottom Line
According to a recent study of more than 1,500 salespeople in 17 industries by the Industrial Performance Group, Northfield, Ill., profits and revenues suffer because companies prevent their salespeople from spending time selling.

Most of their time — 62 percent — is spent on non-revenue generating activities and just 38 percent of their time selling. Salespeople spend eight percent of their time prospecting and qualifying new customers; and 23 percent dealing with problems and mistakes, searching for information, and expediting orders.