Environmental Contamination

A Closer Look at Environmental Contaminants

A number of 3rd party studies demonstrate the need to identify and manage the spread of organisms in healthcare settings.

Contamination of fabrics in healthcare settings is confirmed.

In a 2008 study1 to determine the contamination rate of untreated privacy curtains, findings concluded that “42% of hospital privacy curtains were contaminated with vancomycin—resistant enterococci, 22% with methicillin—resistant Staphylococcus aureus.”

A 2007 study2 confirmed that “a significant number of hospital curtains are contaminated with MRSA” and that while “current hospital protocol is to change and launder curtains quarterly… regular provision of clean hospital curtains is, however, logistically difficult.”


MDRO’s can survive and proliferate on a wide variety of fabrics for extended periods of time.

A 1999 study to determine the survival of MDRO’s on five common hospital materials determined that “all isolates survived for at least 1 day, and some survived for more than 90 days on the various materials.”

Further, “the long survival of these bacteria, including MRSA and VRE, on commonly used hospital fabrics, such as scrub suits, lab coats, and hospital privacy drapes, underscores the need for meticulous contact control procedures.”

Neely AN. Survival of Survival of Enterococci and Staphylococci on Hospital Fabrics and Plastic. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. February 2000.

Neely AN. Survival of Some Medically Important Fungi on Hospital Fabrics and Plastics. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. September 2001.


MDRO contamination is widespread on fabrics.

In a 2008 study3 of healthcare uniforms as a possible source of infections in a 550—bed general hospital, clinical findings indicated that:

Up to 50% of professional uniforms worn by MDs and RNs are colonized by pathogenic bacteria

Up to 28% of isolated pathogens are multidrug resistant

A 2010 Nigerian study4 to determine the potential for infection transmission via labcoats further concluded that, “microbiological analysis of swabs taken from the cuffs and pocket mouths of physicians’ white coats in an acute care hospital showed that 91.3% of the coats had bacterial contamination.”


Cross-contamination from fabirc to hand is confirmed

Contamination has been shown to transfer from fabrics to hands. “Hand imprint cultures demonstrated that these pathogens were easily acquired on hands.” 5

Additional research into cross—contamination from workers’ uniforms conducted at three separate Long—Term Care Facilities revealed that “the level of MRSA contamination of pockets was high, with rates [as high as] 60.0% when pocket use was not controlled. When care was provided without protection, MRSA contamination ranged [as high as] 80.0%.” 6

1 Infection Control Hospital Epidemiology 2008; 29:1074—1076 2 Dancer SJ., Importance of the environment in meticillin—resistant Staphylococcus aureus acquisition: the case for hospital cleaning. Lancet Infect Dis 2007:70241e70244. doi: 10.1016/S1473—3099(07). 3 M. Galuty, et al.; Clinical Findings, Healthcare Uniforms and Infections, Presented at the Infectious Diseases Society of America Conference, 2008 4 C. J. Uneke and P. A. Ijeoma, The Potential for Nosocomial Infection Transmission by White Coats Used by Physicians in Nigeria: Implications for Improved Patient—Safety Initiatives; World Health & Population Vol. 11 No. 3 2010 5 Trillis F. Contamination of Hospital Curtains With Healthcare—Associated Pathogens. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. November 2008. 6 P. Gaspard, et al.; Meticillin—resistant Staphylococcus aureus contamination of healthcare workers’ uniforms in long—term care facilities; Journal of Hospital Infection (2009) 71, 170—175

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