Turns out YES! The gas pump handle was identified as the filthiest surface Americans may encounter….who knew? Would you have thought that gas pump handles, ATM buttons, mailbox handles, and escalator rails had anything in common? According to a study released by Kimberly-Clark Professional, a unit of Kimberly-Clark Corp, the personal hygiene giant, these are among the dirtiest surfaces we touch every day. The study was carried out in six major U.S. cities. Trained hygienists swabbed frequently touched surfaces in high traffic areas in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia using an instrument that monitors sanitary conditions in industry, and analyzed a total of 350 surfaces.
The test checked for levels of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), which is used in food hygiene and signals the presence of animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast, or mold cells. Surface reading levels with ATP of 300 or higher suggest high risk of contamination of a transmitted illness. The tests revealed that the following surfaces had ATP counts of 300 or more:
- 71 percent of gas pump handles
- 68 percent of mailbox handles
- 43 percent of escalator rails
- 41 percent of ATM buttons
- 40 percent of parking meters and kiosks
- 35 percent of crosswalk buttons and vending machine buttons
So, even if you do not drive or own a car you are still at risk for contracting germs at other surfaces used daily. The study results may or may not surprise many readers, but shows that we need to take care against germs at our workplaces and in public places, which surprisingly lists everything else but public toilets! Another place to avoid are the public water dispensers in public places.
Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, who helped designed the study stresses the importance of keeping surfaces clean and washing hands frequently throughout the day to prevent getting sick and spreading illness. Continue to wash your hands and use the hand sanitizers and alcohol dispensers whenever you can.