When it comes to the social aspect of sustainability — we call it "social wellbeing" at GOJO — many questions can be answered decisively in the context of reducing risk to human health and wellbeing.
And, one of those questions is whether or not it is okay to refill soap dispensers from bulk containers — since there is a perception of saving money and packaging by doing so.
The answer is a resounding, "No!"
Bulk Soaps Compromise Hand Hygiene
Recent studies provide conclusive evidence that better alternatives to refilling bulk dispensers are the sealed systems available today for buildings’ cleaning and maintenance managers.
Read more about our commitment to the future: www.GOJO.com/United-States/Sustainability.aspx.
If I leave you with just one piece of advice today, it is this: Get rid of any refillable bulk soap dispensers still lurking in the restrooms of your buildings.
In my work on a variety of sustainability initiatives at GOJO Industries, my mission gets very personal when it comes to social wellbeing.
We take hand hygiene seriously and track our progress to that end with measurements relative to social, environmental and economic sustainability.
“Social,” the people side of sustainability, is always at the top of our list.
We work diligently in that area every day to deliver wellbeing solutions; part of my job is to share what we learn.
Read more about our social, environmental and economic progress: www.GOJO.com/United-States/Sustainability/Report-2011.aspx.
Just The Facts
Three recently published studies reveal that potential human health risks exist among those who wash their hands with soap from bulk refillable dispensers.
The studies found that public restroom soap dispensers are rarely cleaned, leading to exposure to fecal contamination.
The numbers are ugly: Findings in a study published in the March 2011 Journal of Environmental Health show 25 percent of public bulk soap dispensers are contaminated with unsafe levels of bacteria.
A follow-up study published in the May 2011 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology reports washing with soap from refillable bulk dispensers can leave hands with 25 times more bacteria after washing.
Read more about our fight against bulk soap contamination: www.GOJO.com/United-States/About-GOJO/News/ResourcesCorp/BulkSoapContaminationCorp.aspx.
What’s more, according to a study published in the January 2012 issue of Biofouling, biofilms grow in refillable bulk soap dispensers, causing recontamination even after the dispensers are cleaned with bleach.
Such evidence clearly suggests the human health problems posed by refillable bulk soap dispensers; but, they are also business problems.
GOJO microbiologist Carrie Zapka is an authority on the subject, and her counsel is to never refill soap dispensers by pouring product into an open reservoir and pumping it through biofilm-fouled plumbing.
Sealed Systems Are The Simple Solution
Sealed systems provide the solution to reducing contamination risks, and today’s sealed cartridges are designed for recyclability, so they are not as wasteful as some believe.
Zapka notes that contaminated soap really works against a facility’s efforts to create a healthy environment for work, study or recreation.
She also notes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically recommends that hospitals should not top off bulk soap dispensers.
The CDC, Health Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognize a bacterial contamination risk associated with refilling bulk soap dispensers and have issued guidelines against it.
As I previously mentioned, the numbers are ugly.
And, with the CDC, Health Canada and the WHO taking a stand on the matter, it makes sense to avoid jeopardizing a building’s hand hygiene reputation for the sake of a few dollars — even pennies in some cases.
Reflecting back on my "one piece of advice" mentioned above, I encourage any who still have refillable bulk soap dispensers to begin replacing them as soon as possible with sealed systems.
Doing so will help you make great progress in keeping your facility a place where people’s health and wellbeing is a priority.
Read more about our role in educating the industry about sustainable hygiene: www.GOJO.com/United-States/Sustainability/FAQ.aspx.
Nicole Koharik is the global sustainability marketing director for GOJO Industries Inc.