Concerns over health risks of shared bike helmets
A leading Queensland hairdresser and members of the public have expressed concern over hygiene risks of shared bike helmets, although a scientist says the danger of head lice is low.
The hairdresser criticised Brisbane City Council for providing helmets as part of the city cycle scheme, claiming the helmets are a violation of the council’s own by-laws.
Tony Mitchell Hair co-principal Tony Mitchell said the council was putting people at risk of contracting bacteria or head lice by providing helmets which were not sterilised after each use.
“Council by-laws would not allow any hairdresser to operate without sterilisation of our equipment before each and every client,” Mr Mitchell said.
“The hairdressing industry has very strict regulations which we have to follow and it doesn’t make sense that the council is allowing people to share helmets without any sterilisation.
“We would never put clients at risk of contracting bacteria or head lice by not properly sterilising our tools. Council should abide by the rules and regulations they enforce, they would prosecute us if we didn’t.”
A Newsbytes street poll found locals were squeamish at the idea of sharing a helmet with fellow cyclists.
Jayde Girgis said it was “unacceptable” to share a helmet: “Hygiene is an important aspect of daily life; Some people sweat a lot; I think it’s unacceptable,” she said.
Brian Power thought it was a “dangerous” practice to share helmets, “especially with creepy crawlies getting around”.
Barbara Jones said it was “a dilemma” wearing helmets in Brisbane: “I’m always a bit surprised when I see people picking up the helmets from the bike stations.”
But Professor Rick Speare from James Cook University’s School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences said there was a very slim chance of head lice surviving in helmets.
“A head louse not on the head is a head louse in a desperate situation,” he said.
“Head lice will dehydrate when off the head and the rate at which this occurs depends on the amount of water vapour in the air.
“In an air-conditioned room, head lice will be severely dehydrated after a few hours, when it is wet and raining, head lice may live for 24 hours.”
Brisbane City Council was asked to provide comment to Newsbytes but failed to respond.