Germ alert: Attack of the killer necktie!

As the medical community debates whether to remove neckties from hospitals to prevent the spread of superbugs that claim thousands of lives annually, a microbe-thwarting tie is born.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
2 min read

You may not know it, but deep within the ivory towers of hospitals a debate is raging over the future of the doctor's necktie. One company has turned the debate into an opportunity with a tie whose stain-resistant coating actually thwarts microbes.

Safety Ties
Safety Ties come in various patterns, including this brick red/maroon style with silver/gray stripes. SafetySmart

Much evidence has emerged in recent years that doctors wearing ties might actually cause as much harm to patients as doctors who don't wash their hands. In one 2004 study of 42 doctors and medical staffers at the New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens, almost 50 percent of the neckties were host to bacteria that can cause pneumonia, blood infections, and more.

I'm no squirmy person, but that's just gross.

In 2006, the British Medical Association suggested that medical personnel no longer wear "functionless" items such as neckties that carry "superbugs."

And this summer, the American Medical Association considered Resolution 720, which pushed for a dress code that addresses the issue of neckties, long sleeves, and other clothing items and accessories "implicated in the spread of infections in hospitals." Implicated! This has gotten serious, folks. (A committee wants more evidence before bringing the resolution to a vote.)

But because many doctors are publicly pushing for the preservation of the necktie, which is the cred equivalent of gold grills for rappers like Flava Flav, April Strider of SafeSmart in Florida has put her money on a compromise: the high-tech, antimicrobial tie.

Is the doctor's necktie making you sick? alacoolk/Flickr

Strider tells the Wall Street Journal that the coating "repels bacterial contamination." She even designed the ties with a graphic print of the H1N1 influenza strand, among other "doctor themes," a lovely twist of irony as she manages to put germs on her germ-free ties. Strider's already got a major client in Wilson Memorial Hospital, near Dayton, Ohio, where some docs are wearing polo shirts but others prefer to stick with ties.

A big "oh well" to all the (probably younger) doctors hoping to do away with the necktie altogether. Hey, you could always try Portland, land of the laid-back workplace. Of course, then you'd have to grow a beard, which is a bit like farming your own colony of happy bacteria. At least that H1N1 tie is currently on sale, marked down from $44.95 to $29.95.