Hand soaps provided in restrooms in public venues have been found to contain exceedingly high numbers of viable bacteria, including Escheridic coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, that may cause potentially life-threatening infections, a test commissioned by a newspaper showed.
The Chinese-language Apple Daily reported yesterday that half of the hand soap samples it took from 20 public restrooms in airports, high-speed railway (HSR) stations, MRT stations, train stations, department stores and fast-food chains in four cities around the country were found to harbor viable bacteria.
The test was conducted by Super Laboratory, a nationally recognized testing laboratory, the paper said.
Under the lab’s advice and after consulting with experts on infectious diseases, the paper tested the samples for viable bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and E coli.
Out of the 10 places that were found to have viable bacteria in their restrooms’ hand soaps, seven had counts exceeding the 1,000-colony-forming-unit-per-gram (cfulg) limit set by the Ministry of Health and Welfare for unopened, packaged cosmetic products by between 1.2-fold and 32,999-fold, the paper said.
The seven public venues were: the Taiwan Railways Administration’s Taichung and Kaohsiung stations, MRT Taipei Main Station, HSR Taipei Station, Taipei International Airport (Songshan), Kaohsiung Hanshin Department Store and MOS Burger’s Taipei Xinsheng S Road branch.
The soap in the female restrooms at the Greater Taichung Station was found to have more than 33 million bacteria per gram.
Songshan airport’s hand soap tested positive for Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and the MOS Burger branch for E coli.
Environmental Protection Administration officials suspected that the contamination was caused by people having physical contact with the container and leaving bacteria on it when reaching for the hand soap in the dispenser, the Apple Daily said.
The agency said that many restroom attendants refill soap dispensers before they are empty, which could cause bacteria growth.
According to the Central News Agency, the Greater Taichung Government’s health bureau dispatched inspectors to the station and had samples taken immediately after the report was published.
The results will be released in a week, the bureau said.
In response to the report, the Food and Drug Administration said that the maximum allowable level of viable microorganisms in cosmetic products has been set at 1,000 CFU per gram or milliliter, and E coli, P aeruginosa and S aureus should not to be detected at all.
The agency added that in its annual inspection of cosmetic products a total of 103 products were checked for infectious microorganisms last year, and five were found to have exceeded the limit, but none tested positive for the three types of bacteria stated above.