Evolutionary biologist and graphic-design geek Colin Purrington (author of the fantastic taxonomy of lab-notebook inks) has an issue with bathrooms. Specifically, with bathrooms so badly designed that no one washes and dries their hands adequately, and then everyone is forced to touch a door handle in order to exit. He’s sufficiently exasperated that he not only blogged his annoyance, he came up with some public-health messaging to share the spleen: a set of signs formatted for printing onto large-scale Post-It sheets, suitable for guerrilla adornment of any door or a hot-air blower.
My pet peeve: bathroom doors hinged in a way that require people to touch the handle or knob to exit. I’m sure there are fire code reasons why architects specify for this, but it’s strange (remote risk of fire vs real risk of disease)…. Compounding the above problem is the fad of equipping bathrooms with only electric hand dryers (“Saves the environment!”). Because cheap hand dryers take about 3 minutes to dry hands, many people opt to just exit the bathroom without washing their hands. Or at least guys.… I don’t hang out in women’s restrooms that often. This means that the handle or knob is going to get a lot more use from hands that are coated in microbial nasties.
Is Purrington right in his denunciation of door handles, hot-air blowers and bathroom design as an engine of infection? I took a look: There’s a lot of research on germiest hazards in public places, and a little on better design. The answers seem to be: Maybe, Yes, and Yes.