Germiest place in America? The gas pump

Gas-pump_
This post has been corrected. See note below for details.

Warning: This story might make your skin crawl.

A new study has found that the gas pump is the germiest, filthiest thing we touch in everyday life. That's according to Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona -- and he should know. A microbiologist, he's known by the nickname "Dr. Germ."

The research results released Tuesday found that 71% of gas pump handles and 68% of corner mailbox handles are "highly contaminated" with the kinds of germs most associated with a high risk of illness. The study by Kimberly-Clark Professional, and reported on in USA Today, says that 41% of ATM buttons and 43% of escalator rails are similarly teeming with germs.

Other highly contaminated places that many people probably never considered before, and now might fear using, are parking meters and kiosks, about 40% of which are fouled by germs. Crosswalk buttons and vending machines were tied at 35%.

As part of the study, hygienists swabbed suspected germ hotspots and then analyzed the findings. They used general industry sanitary standards as their benchmark.

Gerba analyzed the results for Kimberly-Clark's Healthy Work Place Project, a subsidiary of the manufacturer of tissues, hand sanitizer and the like. (The project's website says sick employees cost the average business about $1,320 per employee.)

So what are we supposed to do? Apparently, it's all about "hand hygiene" -- washing your hands throughout the day -- and wiping down your work station with a cleaning product (naturally) because a desktop, keyboard and computer mouse can be a breeding ground for germs, says Gerba and the folks at Kimberly-Clark.

"As your computer boots up, wipe down your desk and mouse," Brad Reynolds, leader of Kimberly-Clark's Healthy Workplace Project, said in the USA Today article. He also advised swabbing conference tables between meetings.

[Corrected at 7:13 a.m., Oct. 27: An earlier version of this post implied that Dr. Gerba conducted the tests himself. Kimberly-Clark conducted the tests.]

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Gas pumps are the germiest, filthiest things touched in everyday life, a study finds. Credit: Associated Press

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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