Unintended consequences: King Ludd was right

Natural science has a funny way of bumping up against high tech. While we are way past the point of  rationally discussing whether we'd be better off without automobiles, industrialized agriculture, or Auto-Tune (I'd vote against all three), not all high tech gadgets are irreversibly entrenched in our culture.

King Ludd--waiting for rain to wash his hands
Hands-free sinks have always annoyed me--I like being able to alter the water temperature, and I have a bad habit of setting my papers down on the sink's edge, with predictable consequences. They make sense, though--less touching, more sanitary. The last thing a hand touches before turning on a bathroom sink may be a less-than-pristine orifice.

Hospitals have spent oodles of dollars installing the sinks for this reason. Nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections are a huge expense, and despite occasional evidence to the contrary, hospitals want their patients to get better.

Alas, turns out the money may be wasted. A Johns Hopkins study shows that automatic faucets may increase risks of nosocomial infections; the fancy valves used in the high-tech sinks serve as breeding grounds for Legionella bacteria.

As a result, "hospital leadership elected to use traditional fixtures – some 1,080 of them – in all patient care areas in the new clinical buildings currently under construction at Johns Hopkins’ East Baltimore campus." Yep, they're removing the high-tech fancy doo-dad sinks and replacing them with, ahem, traditional fixtures.

How many high-tech devices in the classroom truly improve education? 

Maybe if they look at the morbidity from cars, they'll consider removing the parking lots, too.

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