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Zoey Morton

Joined: Dec 17, 2013
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Country: United Kingdom
Province/State: Portsmouth
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Washing Hands in Hot Water Wastes Energy, Study Says
Dec 17, 2013

It doesn’t kill germs better than cooler water, but turning tap temperatures high, the U.S. burns carbon equal to the emissions of Barbados.

“People typically wash their hands seven times a day in the United States, but they do it at a far higher temperature than is necessary to kill germs, a new study says. The energy waste is equivalent to the fuel use of a small country.” – National Geographic

It's cold and flu season, when many people are concerned about avoiding germs. But forget what you think you know about hand washing, say researchers at Vanderbilt University. Chances are good that how you clean up is not helping you stay healthy; it is helping to make the planet sick. Amanda R. Carrico, a research assistant professor at the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment in Tennessee, told National Geographic that hand washing is often "a case where people act in ways that they think are in their best interest, but they in fact have inaccurate beliefs or outdated perceptions."

In fact, she noted that hot water can often have an adverse effect on hygiene. "Warmer water can irritate the skin and affect the protective layer on the outside, which can cause it to be less resistant to bacteria," said Carrico. Using hot water to wash hands is therefore unnecessary, as well as wasteful, Carrico said, particularly when it comes to the environment. According to her research, people use warm or hot water 64 percent of the time when they wash their hands. Using that number, Carrico's team calculated a significant impact on the planet. (See related “Quiz: What You Don’t Know About Climate Change Science.”)

That's roughly equal to the emissions of two coal-fired power plants, or 1,250,000 passenger vehicles, over the course of a year. It's higher than the greenhouse gas emissions of small countries like El Salvador or Armenia, and is about equivalent to the emissions of Barbados. If all U.S. citizens washed their hands in cooler water, it would be like eliminating the energy-related carbon emissions of 299,700 U.S. homes, or the total annual emissions from the U.S. zinc or lead industries. (See related, "Six Stealthy Energy Hogs: Are They Lurking In Your Home?&quotwink

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Farhad

Joined: Jun 13, 2008
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Re: Washing Hands in Hot Water Wastes Energy, Study Says
Mar 21, 2014

Excellent points and arguments Morton. The same issues are witnessed in other parts of our planet. In the cold regions almost like the United States.

It is exactly the opposite in the hot rich regions. In those areas like Dubai and Qatar unnatural growth is causing large environmental foot prints. Something overlooked and ignored by Westerners due to their participation in the related growth.
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