Thursday, November 5, 2009

The 12 Germiest Places of All

The 12 Germiest Places of All

"It's enough to make even the least germophobic person a little worried," Dr. Charles Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona, told

You'll never look at your kitchen sink the same way again!

He's referring to all the germs in America, lurking in places you frequent and touch everyday.

This year, with the swine flu on everyone's mind, germs have taken on a whole new meaning. It's said that 80 percent of infections are spread through hand contact. In other words you touch a germ-infested object, get the germ on your hand and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

Just like that, the germ makes a happy home in your body.

The germiest places in America are not what you might think. They're not restricted to public bathrooms and grungy bus seats ... many are actually right in your own home.

12 Germiest Spots asked Dr. Gerba and a panel of experts to reveal the "dirty dozen" places with the most germs, and here is what they found:

1. Your Kitchen Sink
More than 500,000 bacteria per square inch are likely to inhabit your sink's drain!

2. Airplane Bathrooms
Think about it. There's only one bathroom for every 50 people, and the sinks are tiny and difficult to use. So there's often traces of E. coli and fecal bacteria on faucets and door handles. Plus, the toilet flushing can spew particles into the air and coat the floor and walls with its contents.

3. Wet Laundry
According to Gerba, one soiled undergarment is enough to contaminate the whole load and your washing machine. So when you transfer those "clean" clothes to the dryer, you're likely going to get E. coli on your hands.

4. Public Drinking Fountains
All public drinking fountains are germy, but school fountains are the worst. They can have anywhere from 62,000 to 2.7 million bacteria per square inch on the spigot.

5. Shopping Cart Handles
Saliva, bacteria and fecal matter can all be found on shopping cart handles, which are touched by dozens of different people every day, yet rarely, if ever, cleaned.

6. ATM Buttons
Chinese researchers found that each ATM key they tested contained an average of 1,200 germs.

7. Your Purse
Your purse likely goes with you everywhere, and gets plunked on the floor, on countertops and on countless other surfaces ... and it shows. Dr. Gerba and his team tested women's purses and found most had tens of thousands of bacteria on the bottom. Some even had millions.

8. Playgrounds
Blood, mucus, saliva and urine are all likely coating the monkey bars at the playground, according to researchers. Children are also more likely to put their fingers in their mouths, making the combination particularly gross (and potentially dangerous).

9. Mats and Machines at Health Clubs
Antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria has been found on yoga mats, cardio equipment and resistance machines.

10. Your Bathtub
Your tub may have more than 100,000 bacteria per square inch, including staph bacteria. Even though you regularly clean your tub, you use it to wash germs off your body and the moist environment makes it perfect for germs to grow.

11. Your Office Phone
With more than 25,000 germs per square inch, your office phone (and also your desk, computer keyboard, mouse and cell phone) are fairly well covered in germs.

12. Hotel Room Remote Control
The remote control is touched by nearly everyone who stays in the room, but it's rarely cleaned. So as you might suspect, if someone sick recently stayed in your hotel room there's a good chance the virus is still on the remote (and door handles, light switches and bathroom faucet).

Why Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers (i.e. Purell, etc.) are NOT a Good Solution

After reading this, you might "first" mistakenly be tempted to carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you at all times, or at least for those times when you can't wash your hands. But you should know that hand sanitizers, including one of the leading brands, Purell, have been given a seven out of 10 score for toxicity (with 10 being the highest hazard) by the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.

According to Skin Deep, ingredients in Purell Hand Sanitizer are linked to:

Developmental/reproductive toxicity
Endocrine disruption
Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs)

Further, several of the ingredients have noted violations, restrictions and warnings and have been labeled as contamination concerns, occupational hazards, and causing biochemical or cellular level changes.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can also be harsh on your skin, leading to tiny cracks on your skin's surface -- and these cracks may actually provide an entryway for disease-causing organisms!

How to Keep Your Hands Really Clean

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.

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