The 10 Most Germ-Infested Places in Public
If you've used an elevator, shared a pen or grabbed a snack
from a vending machine today, more than likely you've already
come into contact with illness-causing germs. In fact, some
of the dirtiest places in public are seemingly innocent, yet
because they're used often and rarely cleaned, they harbor
a host of potential pathogens.
Bodily fluids were found on 44 percent of playground
surfaces tested by University of Arizona researchers.
According to researchers at the University of Arizona, who
tested over 800 public surfaces in four U.S. cities, one out
of every five surfaces in places like shopping centers, offices,
day care centers and airports are contaminated.
Bodily Fluids, Fecal Matter and Protein
Along with testing the samples for the presence of protein
(which is a general indicator of hygiene) and fecal matter,
the researchers measured levels of three biochemical markers
that could contain illness-causing substances. These included:
Hemoglobin: Indicates the presence of blood
Alpha-amylase: Indicates the presence of mucus, saliva
Urea: Indicates the presence of urine
Out of all the samples, the places that carried the most
germs were children's playgrounds. A full 44 percent of playground
surfaces tested positive for bodily fluids.
"Really, I'm never going to go on a swing in a children's
playground again," said microbiologist Chuck Gerba, one
of the study's researchers.
The Top 10 Germiest Public Places
Playgrounds are not the only public places that call for
a good hand-washing after using them. Following are the top
10 germiest places the researchers found (germs are able to
survive on these surfaces anywhere from just a few hours to
a few weeks).
- Bus rails/armrests
- Public bathrooms
- Shopping cart handles
- Escalator handrails
- Chair armrests
- Vending machine buttons
- Shared pens
- Public telephones
- Elevator buttons
Germs Easily Transferred Onto Personal Items and Into
Washing your hands is your best defense against germs.
Remember to do so before eating and after coming home
from any public place, including the grocery store (shopping
cart handles were the 4th germiest surface tested in
After finding the dirtiest places, the researchers set out
to find how easily germs are transferred from one spot to
another. They artificially contaminated surfaces with an invisible
fluorescent dye then tracked the dye's path over the course
of several hours.
People commonly picked up the fake "germs" from
doorknobs, telephones and other surfaces, and they spread
quickly to people's faces, hair, desktops,
keyboards and other personal items.
From there, the germs spread to people's cars and into
their homes, ending up on kitchen appliances, faucets
and remote controls.
"The houses lit up like Christmas trees," said
Dr. Kelly Reynolds, the study's lead author.
How to Keep as Germ-Free as Possible
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Considering that Americans touch about 300 different surfaces
every 30 minutes, it's pretty much impossible to avoid all
germs. However, there are ways to dramatically reduce your
risk of spreading, and getting sick from, these pesky invaders.
First and foremost, wash
your hands often. This means before you eat and prepare
food, after you come home from the office, the supermarket
or just about any public place and, of course, after using
"The best defense in the world is hand-washing, which
people get tired of doing," Gerba said.
The researchers also recommended routinely disinfecting frequently
touched surfaces both at home and in the office. Wiping down
appliance handles, computer keyboards, doorknobs, light switches,
etc., is an excellent way to help reduce the spread of disease,
and we highly recommend the PerfectClean
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Unlike ordinary cleaning rags that simply push dirt around,
PerfectClean's revolutionary ultramicrofiber construction
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water, and are still incredibly effective.
So remember, while germs are all around us no matte how "clean"
we are, you can go a long way toward keeping yourself and
your family safe from germs by washing your hands and wiping
down commonly touched surfaces regularly.
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Journal of Environmental Health Research 2005 Jun;15(3):225-34.