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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The 2007 Top 10 Germiest Places

Courtesy of
The top places that your hands pick up germs :
1. Your kitchen sink

2. Airplane bathrooms

It’s not exactly a shock that there are a huge nund overused airplane loos (with only about one toilet for every 50 people) are the worst. “There are often traces of E. coli or fecal bacteria on the faucets and door handles, because it’s hard to wash your hands in those tiny sinks,” says Dr. Germ, a.k.a. Charles Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology
3. A load of wet laundry

4. Public drinking fountains

Drinking fountains are bound to be germy, but school fountains are the biggest offenders, with anywhere from 62,000 to 2.7 million bacteria per square inch on the spigot, says Robert Donofrio, PhD, director of microbiology for NSF International. Other school hot spots: cafeteria trays, sink handles, desk-tops, and computer keyboards. Yes, kids are germy creatures. And, thanks to their slapdash hygiene, 22 million school days are lost each year to colds alone.

Reduce the risk: Send your child to school with plenty of her own beverages. Teach her to wash her hands, especially before and after lunch, going to the bathroom, or using the computer. Send hand sanitizer to every school teacher and give extras to your child.

5. Shopping cart handles

Saliva. Bacteria. Fecal matter. Those are just a few of the choice substances Gerba found on shopping cart handles. Carts rank high on the yuck scale because they’re handled by dozens of people every day and you’re “putting your broccoli where some kid’s butt was,” says the professor of environmental microbiology. And, of course, raw food carries nasty pathogens.

Reduce the risk: Many stores, aware of the ick factor, have a dispenser with disinfectant wipes near the carts. If yours doesn’t, bring your own and give the handle a quick swab; that’s been shown to kill nearly 100 percent of germs.

6. ATM buttons

If you’re not careful, you might pick up more than quick cash from your local ATM. Those buttons have more gunk on them than most public-bathroom doorknobs. (The same goes for vending-machine buttons, bus armrests, and escalator handrails. ATMs aren’t frequently cleaned, and they are regularly touched—a perfect combination for a lot of germs,” environmental microbologist Kelly Reynolds, PhD, says.
Reduce the risk: “Carry an alcohol-free hand-sanitizer with you and rub it on your hands after a visit to the ATM,” Reynolds suggests. Also, be sure to do it after you handle money. “Paper money actually carries quite a few germs, too,” she say

7. Your handbag

Your Marc Jacobs? Dirty? Yep. Think petri dish. When University of Arizona professor of environmental microbiology Charles Gerba, PhD, and his team tested women’s purses not long ago, they found that most had tens of thousands of bacteria on the bottom and a few were overrun with millions. Another study found bugs like pseudo-monas (which can cause eye infections), and skin-infection-causing staphylococcus bacteria, as well as salmonella and E. coli. Your makeup case is every bit as bad, as are your guy’s wallet and personal digital assistant.

8. Playgrounds

There’s just no way to put this delicately: Children tend to ooze bodily fluids and then spread them around. “When we sampled playgrounds, we were pretty aghast at what we found—blood, mucus, saliva, urine,” Kelly Reynolds, PhD, says. Pair those findings with the fact that children put their fingers in their mouths and noses more than the rest of us, and it’s easy to understand why Junior (and maybe his mom or dad) has the sniffles.

Reduce the risk: Carry wipes or hand-sanitizer in your purse, and clean everybody’s hands a couple of times during a park visit, especially before snacking. Pick warm sunny days for outdoor play: “The sun’s ultraviolet light is actually a very effective disinfectant. Most bugs won’t survive long on surfaces that are hot and dry,” says H

9. Your office phone

This is enough to make you dial 911: Office phones often have more than 25,000 germs per square inch, and your desk, computer keyboard, and mouse aren’t far behind. “Phones, including cell phones, can be pretty gross; they get coated with germs from your mouth and hands,” says Robert Donofrio, PhD., an expert in communicable diseases in Richmond, California.

10. Hotel-room remote

What’s the first thing you do when you settle in at a hotel? You grab the remote control and switch on the TV—you, and the hundreds of other guests who’ve stayed there. How dirty is it? Owen Hendley, MD, a professor of pediatrics and infectious disease at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and his colleagues recently tested various surfaces for the cold virus after a group of sick people had stayed overnight. “We found the virus on the remote, door handles, light switches, pens, and faucet handles,” he says.

11. Mats and machines at health clubs

“I see a yoga mat, and I worry,” says Elizabeth Scott, PhD, who has found antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus on yoga mats and cardio and resistance machines. “At high schools, antibiotic-resistant-staph infections have been transmitted through wrestling mats. The same thing could happen at health clubs.”

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