Microbes Galore Lurking at the Gas Station
Germaphobes, hide your eyes. The gas station restroom is not necessarily the nastiest place on earth. A new report entitled “The Healthy Workplace Project” sponsored by Kimberly-Clark Professional, has identified the gas pump as one of the filthiest places we place our hands. According to the report, which was headed by Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona (aka “Dr. Germ”), 71% of gas pump handles were contaminated with microbes which are commonly associated with illness.
A team of hygienists scoured the US for germs by swabbing places where we all tend use our hands. The results were enough to make your skin crawl. While gas pumps were the top offenders, coming in a close second were public mailboxes (68% contaminated with germs), escalator rails at 43% and ATM buttons at 41%. Other places making the list were crosswalk buttons, parking meter kiosks and vending machines.
The results, while unpleasant, are not necessarily earth-shattering. The public places which people tend to use regularly, are also the places where germs generally lurk. Bacteria and viruses, once transferred onto surfaces, can live for up to 2 hours, waiting to be carried onto the next living host (i.e, you!). A study conducted in 2010 found that 85% of men and women observed in public places throughout the US washed their hands after using the restroom. The remaining 15% (and more, depending on the study) carry bacteria and viruses which are easily transmitted to everyday surfaces. And so the chain continues.
The lesson? The same old refrain “Wash your hands!”—while decidedly un-sexy, remains as true as ever. It is especially important to wash up after returning home after work, a shopping trip, a visit to the gym or the gas station (yuck!). Cleaning surfaces such as computer keyboards, telephone receivers, remote controls and mobile phones are vitally important as these are the devices we use every day, and where our grubby little mitts transfer their germs. Keeping a pocket hand sanitizer on hand is also a good idea, if a wash basin is not handy. All these little tricks will help to minimize your risk of developing colds, the flu, and intestinal infections during the fall and winter seasons.