Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

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Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby mouseone » Thu May 31, 2012 6:00 pm

Hi Everyone,

I'm a student journalist following up a story on the health aspect of sharing helmets. Brisbane City Council currently provide helmets on some of the city cycle scheme bikes, and a leading hairdresser has said it's an outbreak of bacteria or lice waiting to happen.

Lice isn't such an issue, as they need the warmth and blood of the head (gross, I know) to feed on to survive, but I am having difficulty finding a health care professional to comment on the bacteria side of things.

Does anyone know if bacteria is an issue in helmets? Can sweat left in helmets cause bacteria to grow?

If anyone has any info or know of anyone who could possibly help I would be very appreciative.

Thanks!
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by BNA » Thu May 31, 2012 7:33 pm

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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby Crittski » Thu May 31, 2012 7:33 pm

mouseone wrote:I am having difficulty finding a health care professional to comment on the bacteria side of things.


How are you going about approaching "health care professionals"?
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Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby RonK » Thu May 31, 2012 9:00 pm

Perhaps they think the benefits of getting more people cycling outweigh any risks, and don't wish to contribute to a negative reporting. Really, any such story should be based proper testing of a reasonable sample of helmets, and not just based on opinions.
But having seen journalism in action from close quarters, I have no doubt there will be little interest in a positive story that concludes that there are no health risks from shared helmets.
For my own opinion, I think the Citycycle service is very worthy, and I use it regularly despite having 4 bikes of my own.
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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby greyhoundtom » Fri Jun 01, 2012 7:31 am

Head lice is caused by Pediculosis humanus capitis, the head louse. Head lice can be transmitted from one person to another by the sharing of hats,combs, or hair brushes. Epidemics of head lice are common among school-age children from all class backgrounds in all parts of the United States. The head louse is about 1/16 of an inch in length. The adult form may be visible onthe patient's scalp, especially around the ears; or its grayish-white nits (eggs) may be visible at the base of the hairs close to the scalp. It takes between three and 14 days for the nits to hatch. After the nits hatch, the lousemust feed on blood within a day or die.

Head lice can spread from the scalp to the eyebrows, eyelashes, and beard in adults, although they are more often limited to the scalp in children. The itching may be intense, and may be followed by bacterial infection of skin thathas been scratched open. Another common complication is swelling or inflammation of the neck glands. Head lice do not spread typhus or other systemic diseases.

Lice Infestations

Going by this article it is certainly possible for head lice to be transmitted from one person to another via a cycling helmet, and even if it was not possible, there is no way that I for one would be happy to wear a helmet that had been soaked in sweat by someone else.
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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby mouseone » Fri Jun 01, 2012 7:53 am

Crittski wrote:
mouseone wrote:I am having difficulty finding a health care professional to comment on the bacteria side of things.


How are you going about approaching "health care professionals"?


Hi there,

I have approached Professors and Doctors at Queensland Universities who specialise in head lice, parasites and bacteria via email and phone calls.

The issue is actually getting hold of them, not the way I am approaching them.

Cheers
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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby mouseone » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:00 am

RonK wrote:Perhaps they think the benefits of getting more people cycling outweigh any risks, and don't wish to contribute to a negative reporting. Really, any such story should be based proper testing of a reasonable sample of helmets, and not just based on opinions.
But having seen journalism in action from close quarters, I have no doubt there will be little interest in a positive story that concludes that there are no health risks from shared helmets.
For my own opinion, I think the Citycycle service is very worthy, and I use it regularly despite having 4 bikes of my own.



Hi,

Thanks for your comments. I'm after a balanced news story, which is why I am approaching Professors and Doctors who specialise in the field. They're hard to get hold of, which is why I posted in this forum to see if anyone could provide useful information.

My story is not necessarily written from a negative perspective, it wouldn't be a balanced story if I simply wrote someone's opinion without researching the facts.
Perhaps the journalism you have encountered is limited but good journalists always provide two angles to the story.

Cheers
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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby mouseone » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:06 am

greyhoundtom wrote:
Head lice is caused by Pediculosis humanus capitis, the head louse. Head lice can be transmitted from one person to another by the sharing of hats,combs, or hair brushes. Epidemics of head lice are common among school-age children from all class backgrounds in all parts of the United States. The head louse is about 1/16 of an inch in length. The adult form may be visible onthe patient's scalp, especially around the ears; or its grayish-white nits (eggs) may be visible at the base of the hairs close to the scalp. It takes between three and 14 days for the nits to hatch. After the nits hatch, the lousemust feed on blood within a day or die.

Head lice can spread from the scalp to the eyebrows, eyelashes, and beard in adults, although they are more often limited to the scalp in children. The itching may be intense, and may be followed by bacterial infection of skin thathas been scratched open. Another common complication is swelling or inflammation of the neck glands. Head lice do not spread typhus or other systemic diseases.

Lice Infestations

Going by this article it is certainly possible for head lice to be transmitted from one person to another via a cycling helmet, and even if it was not possible, there is no way that I for one would be happy to wear a helmet that had been soaked in sweat by someone else.



Thanks Greyhound Tom, info and comment much appreciated!
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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby thomashouseman » Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:44 am

You may want to raise this article:

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/821677/bike-helmet-chemicals-sicken-130-kids

Maybe even chase it up with the zoo to see what they do now...
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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby Meditator » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:20 pm

thomashouseman wrote:You may want to raise this article:

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/821677/bike-helmet-chemicals-sicken-130-kids


Perhaps it wasn't hte agent per se but the fact that it wasn't rinsed off. I mean if only this group of users were affected it looks more like human error, unless of course this detergent was only used this once. Its annoying how they don't say what the detergent was.

Maybe riders should wear a hat or bandana under the helmet if they have any concerns. But it does sound like cleaning the helmets between uses would be the sensible way to go. They should not use anything that would leave a residual smell as that would really bug me if i was using one of their helmets.
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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby slarv » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:05 pm

Another angle you can put in your story is looking at how other sports deal with germs and hire equipment. For example, ice skates and roller blades get nice and sweaty and are shared by lots of people; but you never hear hair dressers complaining about that.
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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby bigfriendlyvegan » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:25 pm

You could always contact Rosebank. They've been making helmets for the past 30 years. They would have done some research on this sort of thing, I'm sure. www.rosebank.com.au

I suspect that public (and private) toilet seats would be worse at spreading ickiness than a helmet would.

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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby nayfen » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:51 pm

What about the bike seat and handle bars? They have also been touched. I personally think a thorough inspection of the helmet for sweat or other riders body parts before use would cerfice. If I was feeling perticulary paranoid I could use a bacterial wet one wipe.
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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby diggler » Sun Jun 17, 2012 3:53 pm

I thought the helmets get washed. I had a Melbourne bike share helmet which looked used, but clean.
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Re: Sharing helmets - Brisbane Citycycle Scheme

Postby lethoso » Wed Jun 20, 2012 10:34 pm

greyhoundtom wrote:Going by this article it is certainly possible for head lice to be transmitted from one person to another via a cycling helmet


Head lice are primarily spread by direct contact, not by fomites such as helmets. Additionally, they primarily infect (young) children, and the userbase of a cycleshare program is going to be mostly adults. It's certainly possible (I'm sure you could cook up some lab scenario where you can make it happen), but in the real world I'd say it's far enough into the realms of unlikelihood that it's really not something that I'd give second thought to. I'd be more worried about the possiblity of being creamed by a truck riding your city cycle than the prospect of getting headlice from a shared helmet.

Bacteria, I'm not really qualified to comment.
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