Are you picking up germs on your way to work? You may think of subways and buses as places where you’d be exposed to a lot of microbes from other passengers. But even if you carpool or drive yourself, you might want to wash your hands at the end of the trip. Testing in six cities in the U.S. found that nearly three-fourths of gas pump handles are contaminated with bacteria, yeast or mold. The study measured levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) found in cells; it was not designed to detect viral contamination. But viruses often travel the same routes as bacteria, which is why we are urged to wash our hands frequently to avoid colds.
In addition to gas pumps, the hygienists found high rates of contamination on mailboxes (68%), escalator rails (43%), ATM buttons (41%) and parking meters or kiosks (40%). Basically, if you can touch it, so can other people. Perhaps hospital administrators should consider disinfecting elevator buttons, portable equipment, railings and other surfaces in hospitals regularly. Awareness and attention to hand washing is also crucial for infection control.