International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Home Hygiene & Health

The Leading Source of Scientific, Professional & Consumer Information
International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Home Hygiene & Health

The Leading Source of Scientific, Professional & Consumer Information

IFH Newsheet August 2014


1. Latest from IFH

2. News and new research

3. New resources


1. Latest from IFH

Allergies, modern lifestyle and the implications for cleaning and hygiene

A BBC2 Horizon programme “Allergies, modern life and me”, to be shown next Wednesday 27th Aug at 9.00 pm, will explore new understanding about allergic diseases and their link to microbial exposure. The programme looks at how our western lifestyle is impacting on our interactions with vital bacteria and asks the questions, “Why are these changes making people allergic?” and “What can be done to put a stop to the allergy epidemic?” It also explores the misconception that “too much hygiene” is to blame, and shows why hygiene remains key to preventing spread of infectious diseases.

The programme will also become available on the BBC iPlayer


Follow IFH on Twitter @IFH_homehygiene

IFH have now set up a Twitter account. We will use it to send out breaking news items, opinions, and new research findings about hygiene and infection prevention, making sure that they are focused on hygiene issues related to home and everyday life.


Facts and advice about Ebola risks in the community

IFH has prepared a fact and advice sheet, focusing on the risks associated with Ebola in the community and home, giving advice on managing situations where there is risk. Although infection with Ebola causes serious, life-threatening disease, we need to stress that the level of risk is very low even for travellers to affected countries; although it is important that they adopt elementary precautions such as frequent hand washing and avoid direct contact with infected people. This was a difficult fact sheet to prepare and we have been careful to avoid fuelling public concern. We are also aware that dealing with the situation will vary significantly from one area of the world to another and that, in most cases, infected people will be taken to isolation units rather than kept at home. However, despite this, family and community workers may need to handle items such as bed linens, cleaning utensils and human waste. The fact sheet can be found at


Die Hygienehypothese - Wer sind „die Guten“ und wie schützt man sich gegen „die Bösen“?

A short review, in German, on allergies and other chronic inflammatory diseases, the link to microbial exposure and the implications for hygiene has been published in Hygiene und Medezin, 2014, 149-151.


2. News and new research

Poor sanitation linked to malnutrition in India

A July 13th article in the NY Times highlights the emerging body of evidence suggesting that, globally-speaking, many of the 162 million children under the age of five who are malnourished, are suffering more from poor sanitation as opposed to lack of food. The report says: “The disconnect between wealth and malnutrition is so striking that economists have concluded that economic growth does almost nothing to reduce malnutrition”.

Realisation regarding the connection between stunting and sanitation is just emerging.

Two years ago, Unicef, the World Health Organization and the World Bank released a major report on child malnutrition that focused entirely on a lack of food. Sanitation was not mentioned. Now, Unicef officials and those from other major charitable organisations have said that poor sanitation may cause more than half of the world’s stunting problems.

“These children’s bodies divert energy and nutrients away from growth and brain development to prioritise infection-fighting survival,” said Jean Humphrey, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “When this happens during the first two years of life, children become stunted. What’s particularly disturbing is that the lost height and intelligence are permanent.”

The report can be found at:


Antimicrobial resistance and the use of disinfectants and antiseptics

A new review in the Journal of Hospital Infection attempts to answer the question ‘Should we be worried about reduced susceptibility to disinfectants and antiseptics in healthcare settings?’ Since it represents the consensus view of a whole range of experts and opinion formers, it also has important implications for attitudes towards use of antimicrobial products in the home.

This topic was the subject of a debate at two US conferences in the spring of 2013. The review is a general representation of the main themes presented during the debate, rather than a systematic review of the literature. Although it addresses both antiseptics (such as chlorhexidine, benzalkonium chloride and triclosan) and disinfectants, it mostly refers to antiseptics. The authors concluded that, “There are examples of reduced susceptibility to antiseptics in clinical practice; however, to date, there is no strong evidence that reduced susceptibility to antiseptics is a major clinical problem. Given the growing number of potential indications for use of biocidal active ingredients, the potential for emergence of reduced susceptibility remains a concern”.

The review can be found at – and is free to download until 31st August.


Waste food recycling: eco-friendly or food poisoning risk?

To coerce us into using slop buckets (or kitchen caddies) to recycle food waste, the UK government is considering imposing fines on those who dispose of food waste along with general refuse. Is this another example of where building a sustainable environment means real health risks are ignored? In a study reported in the UK Daily Mail, Tessa Cunningham looked at the risks in her own kitchen and did some microbiological sampling. Although this is a very small sample the results are notable. Although, after one day of use, the bin contents tested negative for the coliforms E. coli and Salmonella, after the third day (which included disposing of some raw chicken and other raw meat), high levels of bacteria including Salmonella and E. coli were detected. Can it possibly be hygienic to keep rotting waste in the kitchen, just a few feet from where fresh food is prepared? It goes against everything we recommend about keeping food preparation surfaces clean. Whilst being filled the risks may be small, but when the bin is emptied, it is likely to be cleaned in the kitchen sink, thereby contaminating the sink and the cleaning cloth, which in turn is used to clean surfaces where the bin is to be replaced. The fact is that conditions in the containers encourage small numbers of bacteria in food waste to grow to high numbers whilst still in the kitchen, further increasing the risks. The UK House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee is recommending that everyone should be issued with a “kitchen caddie” to collect food so that it can be composted and transformed into energy for electricity and heat. Nearly 7.6 million households (27% of homes) already have them. They appear to have ignored the potential health risk. Read more:


We are our bacteria – the human microbiome and allergic disease

A July 14th article in the NY Times discusses the human gut microbiome. What is interesting is the emphasis it puts on antibiotics for microbiome disturbances that can lead to chronic disease, including allergic and other atopic disease. In his new book, “Missing Microbes,”
Dr Blaser, Director of the Human Microbiome Project, links the declining variety within the microbiome to our increased susceptibility to serious, often chronic conditions, from allergies and coeliac disease, to Type 1 diabetes and obesity. He and others primarily blame antibiotics for the connection. He also emphasises that “antibiotics are not the only way the balance within us can be disrupted. Caesarean deliveries, which have soared in recent decades, encourage the growth of microbes from the mother’s skin, instead of from the birth canal, in the baby’s gut. The article, which can be found at illustrates how much understanding is now moving away from the narrow view expressed by the original concept of the hygiene hypothesis. There is no mention in the article of the hygiene hypothesis and “too much hygiene and cleanliness”. A short commentary on this issue, in relation to the increasing importance of “hygiene” in our modern world, by Professor Sally Bloomfield, can be found at:


We are our bacteria – the human microbiome and our sense of self and health

Professor Liz Scott (Simmons College, USA) has emailed us to say, “There is much public discussion here in the USA about antibiotic resistance and, at the same time, there are ongoing discussions around the “Are we too clean?” theme together with some radical consumer movements. This includes, for example, a spray-on bacteria product combined with less/no washing referred to in a recent NY Times magazine article ( . The article says, “In the last few years, the microbiome has become a focus for the health conscious and for scientists. Whether any cures emerge from the exploration of the microbiome, the implications of what has already been learned – for our sense of self, for our definition of health and our attitude toward bacteria in general – are difficult to overstate.” 

Interesting times?


3. New resources

Management of waste in the home and community, arising from health and personal care

A guidance document has been written by the UK’s Royal College of Nursing to support healthcare assistants, nurses and midwives with the management of waste generated as part of their role, regardless of the setting in which they provide care (i.e. hospital or the community). It outlines how waste should be classified, segregated and stored prior to collection and treatment or disposal. It covers ‘mixed municipal waste’ (food, packaging and newspapers) and hazardous waste produced during the provision of healthcare. It includes a section which specifically focuses on waste management in community (including home) care. The document can be downloaded from:


Advice note on home care for patients with MERS-CoV infection

WHO has developed an advice note to meet the need for recommendations on safe home care for patients with MERS-CoV infection presenting with mild symptoms, and management of asymptomatic contacts. The document can be downloaded from: