Eight Germiest Places In The Mall
With the amount of foot traffic in malls this time of year, it is no doubt that germs are abundant. Health.com recently announced the eight of the most common germ hangouts, exposing shoppers to the flu viruses, E. coli and staff, among others.
1. Restroom Sinks — The filthiest area in a restroom is the sink, say experts. Bacteria, including E. coli, fester on the faucet and handles because people touch those surfaces right after using the toilet, explains Charles Gerba, PhD. Watch out for soap dispensers, too. When Gerba's team tested liquid soap from refillable dispensers in public bathrooms, they found that one in four contained unsafe levels of bacteria.
2. Food Court Tables — Even if you see the table being wiped down, that doesn't mean it's clean, says panelist Elaine Larson, PhD: "The rags themselves can actually spread harmful bacteria such as E. coli if they are not changed and washed regularly."
3. Escalator Handrails — "In our testing, we have found food, E. coli, urine, mucus, feces, and blood on escalator handrails," says Gerba. "And where there is mucus, you may also find cold and flu viruses." Tierno concurs: "We've found respiratory flora on handrails," he says, "which makes sense because people cough into their hands, then touch the rails."
4. ATM Keypads — After testing 38 ATMs, researchers found that each key contained an average of 1,200 germs, including illness-inducing microbes like E. coli and cold and flu viruses, Tierno says. The worst key of all? The "enter" button, because everyone has to touch it, Gerba points out.
5. Toy Stores — Toy stores can actually be germier than play areas, carousels, and other kid-friendly zones, Tierno says, simply because of the way little ones behave there. "Kids lick toys, roll them on their heads, and rub them on their faces, and all that leaves a plethora of germs on the toys," he says.
6. Fitting Rooms — You won't pick up much from the hooks or the chair. The germ culprit? What you try on. "After people try on clothing, skin cells and perspiration can accumulate on the inside," says Tierno. "Both can serve as food for bacterial growth." You can even pick up antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), just by trying on clothes, says Tierno.
7. Gadget Shops — A study published last year in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that viruses easily transfer between glass surfaces (think iPad or smartphone faces) and fingertips. And a recent report found that of four iPads swabbed in two Apple stores located in New York City, one contained Staphylococcus aureus, the most common cause of staph infections. That's not even counting the cold and flu germs that might be lurking.
8. Makeup Samples — A 2005 study found that between 67 and 100 percent of makeup-counter testers were contaminated with bacteria, including staph, strep, and E. coli. "This study shows us that someone was sick or went to the bathroom, didn't wash their hands, and then stuck their finger in the sample," Tierno says.
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