When you step out of your front door you are surrounded by germs and bacteria. There are some places that our logic tells us are germy, like public toilets. But there are other germ riddled areas that are less obvious, like soap dispensers and ATM key pads.
Here are nine of the germiest public places, and some ideas on how to minimise your risk of infection.
Grocery Cart Handles
Think for a moment about the hundreds of different people who touch the handle on a grocery cart every day in a big department store. Some of them may be ill, some may have poor hygiene habits, and others might have been handling contaminated goods. But all of them are putting their hands onto the handle that you are going to touch next.
Charles Gerba, a microbiologist from the University of Arizona, found E.coli contamination on up to 80% of grocery carts in the US. E.coli bacteria cause serious diarrhea and stomach complications. The same carts were also found to carry other disease causing bacteria and viruses. Many carry traces of microorganisms from uncooked meat, chicken and fish; and, unfortunately, even traces of faeces have been found on in some cases.
The Gas Pump
Another unexpectedly dirty handle is the one on a gas pump. You may have expected a bit of gas or oil, but there is a lot more than that on the average pump handle.
Kimberly-Clark asked six trained hygienists to test the pumps in six major US cities. They found that 71% of gas pumps are highly contaminated. The main substance found on them is Andenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a bacteria found in animal cells, yeast, mold, and some vegetables. It can make you very sick if ingested. So if you buy something to eat at the gas station after you pump gas you might just be putting all kinds of bacteria from the pump handle straight into your mouth when you touch it.
Supermarket Checkout Conveyor Belts
You may want to think twice before you start packing your groceries out onto the checkout conveyor belt. Michigan State University conducted a study wherein they tested 100 checkout conveyor belts in 42 grocery stores. 100% of the belts carried mold, yeast, staph (Staphylococcus aureus) which causes infection and disease, and other bacteria. Many of them also carried salmonella, bacteria that grows in old, raw meat. Salmonella poisoning can make you very sick.Traces of E.coli were also found on a high percentage of the checkout conveyor belts. Raw meat juices were also found on many of the belts.
Most of us like to order a glass of water with our meal when we eat out. It’s customary to serve that water with a lemon wedge bobbing inside it. Unfortunately, in spite of lemon having slight anti-bacterial properties, these lemons often carry a host of different bacteria and even traces of human bodily fluids.
In a study by the Journal of Environmental Health (JEH), researchers tested lemons from 21 restaurants. The lemons were swabbed as soon as they were served, before any diner had handled them and before air contamination could happen. 70% of these swabs produced microbial growth – which means the lemons were carrying microbes which may be pathogenic.
Dr. Philip Tierno of the NYU Langone Medical Centre found that 50% of the lemons served carriedtraces of human bacteria. These included bacteria from faeces and the intestines. He also found bacteria from the lungs and throat, and bacteria that live in human skin. The most alarming of these bacteria are E.coli (which cause diarrhoea), Staphylococcus (which cause skin infections) and candida (a fungus associated with vaginal thrush).
Restroom Sinks and Taps
What could be dirtier than the toilet seat at a public toilet? Well actually, the sink and taps at the public toilet. This is where people go to clean their already contaminated hands.
The same Dr.Gerba who tested the grocery cart handles, conducted a number of tests on public restrooms. He found E.coli and other bacteria on the sink and taps. He says that because these areas are always moist and seldom sanitized, they are a breeding ground for bacteria.
Another unexpectedly grimey item in the restroom is the soap dispenser.
Scientist John Yablonski, of the Bio-Control Consultants,was recently involved in a study which tracked refillable soap dispensers at a New Jersey School. Within only a few months of installation, 100% of the dispensers were contaminated.
He found that one in four bulk soap dispensers contain unsafe levels of bacteria. Washing your hands with soap from a refillable dispenser can leave you with up to 25 times more bacteria on your hands than before you washed them!
Sealed soap dispensers are a much safer bet than refillable ones because they offer less chance for contamination.
The Office Telephone
If the phone in your office is being used by more than one person you are probably exposing yourself to a plethora of germs every time you pick up the receiver.
In 2004 the University of Arizona conducted a study on the germs found on the average telephone. They found 25 127 different germs and bacteria (per square inch!) on the receiver of the average telephone. This because the telephone is something that not only gets touched by many different hands, it is also held near to peoples’ mouths and noses. So it is exposed to a whole range of different bacteria before you pick up and say “hello”.
The Waiting Room in your Doctor’s Office
It stands to reason that if you are in a room filled with other people who are coughing and sneezing that you are exposing yourself to all kinds of germs. But it’s not just the germs in the air you have to worry about.
As soon as you pick up a magazine in the waiting room you are handling something which has been handled by other sick people. The same applies to toys, chairs, door knobs and anything else that might be used by multiple patients.
The Centres for Disease control is concerned that the bacteria known as C.difficle is being spread at doctor’s offices. Tests have been done which found that most people who carry the bacteria had recently visited doctor’s offices. In a study done in 2013 they found that six out of seven outpatient clinics tested in Ohio had C.diff present in their rooms. C. difficle is a dangerous bacteria, associated with a strain of diarrhoea that can be deadly.
Our final great germ-sharing public area is the automatic teller machine (ATM) where you draw your cash. Like the shopping cart handle, those little silver buttons are fingered by hundreds of people every day.
In a UK-based study, Dr Richard Hastings found that the average ATM has as many disease causing bacteria on it as a public toilet. The most common bacteria found on ATM buttons is Bacillus Ceres, a bacteria that causes symptoms similar to food poisoning.
You can’t avoid going into the world just because it’s covered in germs, but there are some common sense measures you can follow to keep yourself and your family safe.
Carry your own sanitizing wipes and spray.There should be non-chemical varieties available at your health store. You can also make your own spray by pouring neat vodka into a spray bottle and adding a few drops of tea tree oil. Alcohol can be quite drying if you use on your skin frequently, but you can use it directly on the handle or tap that you are about to touch.
Try to avoid using public or communal objects like shared phones at work or magazines in waiting rooms. Rather take your own if you can.
When you visit the doctor make an appointment and try to arrive right before the time, rather than waiting for a turn in the queue. Sometimes you will have to sit and wait with other patients, if that happens try to put at least two seats between yourself and the next person.
If you have lemon in your water in a public place, ask to cut it yourself. Then squeeze the juice into your water. Don’t put the whole wedge into your glass. Most of the bacteria will be on the outer skin.
When you’re shopping keep any unpackaged food off of the checkout conveyor belt. You can take your own basket and keep your groceries inside it right up until they are rung up and bagged.
In today’s toxic world, it is important to protect ourselves from these germs and bacteria. Go to the next page and learn more about the immune boosting nutrient that we have been throwing into trash.
About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice. Check out her 4 foods to never eat for breakfast video to lose more than 18 lbs in 3 weeks.
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