The infectious disease experts were skeptical, however, that the policies make that much difference. To test it out, the Denver team designed a trial to compare bacterial contamination of physicians' 50 worn white coats with 50 uniforms that had been newly laundered.
They found no significant difference between the colony counts found on the used white coats versus the counts found on the newly-laundered standard short-sleeved uniform. Nor was there a difference on the sleeve cuffs or the pockets.
"Bacterial contamination occurs within hours after donning newly laundered short-sleeved uniforms. After eight hours of wear, no difference was observed in the degree of contamination of uniforms versus infrequently laundered white coats.
"Our data do not support discarding long-sleeved white coats for short-sleeved uniforms that are changed on a daily basis," they concluded.
Joshua Fierer, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, said in so many words that the New York bill might be a bit overkill.
"Lots of studies show that ties and lab coats get bacteria on them, but few if any have shown that they transmit infection, or that they are any worse than any other item of clothing that could be worn," he wrote in an e-mail to HealthLeaders Media.
He added, however, that "artificial nails and jewelry are banned from the operating room because they cannot be scrubbed clean. Most places have banned artificial nails in general, and I think that is reasonable.