1 out of 4 refillable bulk soap dispensers in the community is contaminated with unsafe levels of bacteria.1 Washing with contaminated bulk soap actually increases the number of germs on the hand by a factor of 25.2 The germs remaining on the hands are easily transferred to other surfaces.2 Even worse, once a dispenser becomes contaminated it is impossible to eliminate the bacteria in the dispenser, even with aggressive cleaning agents, such as bleach.3
Refillable bulk soap contamination is the result of a fundamental design flaw in the dispenser. The same container and nozzle are used indefinitely, usually without cleaning in between refilling as recommended. This is a community health risk that can be avoided by using sealed refill systems (sealed at the manufacturer and never reused) that are readily available today in the market.
Germs identified in bulk refillable soap dispensers are known human pathogens and have led to infections and fatalities in immunocompromised individuals in the hospital setting.4, 5 The U.S. CDC, Health Canada, and the WHO have all recognized the bacterial contamination risk of “topping up” refillable bulk soap dispensers and have issued guidelines against it.6, 7, 8
1. Chattman M, Maxwell S, Gerba C. 2011. Occurrence of heterotrophic and coliform bacteria in liquid hand soaps from bulk refillable dispensers in public
facilities. J Environ Health. 73(7):26-29.
2. Zapka C, Campbell E, Maxwell S, Gerba C, Dolan M, Arbogast J, Macinga D. 2011. Bacterial hand contamination and transfer after use of contaminated
bulk-soap-refillable dispensers. Appl Environ Microbiol. 77(9):2898-2904.
3. Lorenz L, Ramsay B, Goeres D, Fields M, Zapka C, Macinga D. 2012. Evaluation and remediation of bulk soap dispensers for biofilm. Biofouling, 28(1): 99-109.
4. Archibald L, Corl A, Shah B, Schulte M, Arduino M, Aguero S, Fisher D, Stechenberg B, Banerjee S, Jarvis W. 1997. Serratia marcescens outbreak associated
with extrinsic contamination of 1% chlorxylenol soap. Infect Cont Hosp Ep 18:704–709.
5. Lanini S, D’Arezzo S, Puro V, Martini L, Imperi F, et al. 2011. Molecular Epidemiology of a Pseudomonas aeruginosa Hospital Outbreak Driven by a
Contaminated Disinfectant-Soap Dispenser. PLoS ONE 6(2): e17064. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017064
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings: Recommendations of the Healthcare Infection Control
Practices Advisory Committee and the HICPAC/SHEA/APIC/IDSA Hand Hygiene Task Force. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. October 25, 2002 /
Vol. 51 / No. RR-16. Accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/handhygiene/Guidelines.html on May 18, 2010.
7. Health Canada Guidance Document for Human-Use Antiseptic Drugs. December 2009. pg 32.
8. World Health Organization (2009) WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization Press.
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