Seiche Sanders' portraitSummer is festival season, and there’s nothing I love more than a good festival. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I hate more than using one of the requisite portable toilets — toilets also frequented by hundreds of other festival-goers.

As if the experience isn’t unpleasant enough, nobody washes their hands after using the “facilities.” In fact, seldom is there access to hand-washing stations.

While I carry a healthy stock of hand-sanitizing wipes in my purse for just such occasions, I’d venture to guess few others do.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find hand-sanitizer dispensers adorning the walls of porta-potties at a recent festival. These dispensers are also becoming common — at least in some U.S. cities — in gas stations and in the produce departments of grocery stores.

I came down with a cold not long after the festival, but I wasn’t quick to blame outdoor toilets after reading Becky Mollenkamp’s article on germ warfare (“This Means War”). Mollenkamp’s article is full of compelling statistics that distributors can rattle off when educating customers about the costs associated with illness-causing germs. She also cites some noteworthy findings you may not have heard before, such as that the average desk has 400 times more germs than the average toilet seat. Portable toilets were found to be cleaner than shopping cart handles!

Similarly, an unusually high number of hepatitis A cases have been reported in Boston this year. The virus, which is spread by hand-to-mouth contact or eating or drinking contaminated food, could easily be wiped out if people simply washed their hands. See Newsworthy for the full story.

Jan/san distributors know that improving health and sanitation — a noble cause in itself — is also their bread and butter. But while health and cleanliness concerns frame what distributors do for a living, customers need constant enlightenment. Their health — and the general public’s — depends on it.