Public bathrooms often bacteria breeding grounds

By Shayna Brouker • Published: January 11th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You do your best to avoid germs by not touching too many public surfaces, avoiding dirty places in general and of course, scrubbing thoroughly with hot water for at least 30 seconds. But a new study suggests all your best efforts to scrub away unsanitary microbes could be soiled… or foiled… as soon as you turn off the water faucet and open the door.

A study from the University of Florida found that public places like bathrooms, libraries, hospitals and hotels are crawling with microbial critters. That’s hardly surprising, but this is the first study of its kind to unearth just what types of germs there are and how many of them contaminate public surfaces.

Researchers tested high-touch areas in 18 public places, including a mall, offices, a lecture hall, a conference center, restaurants and an airport. They found such dangerous bugs as staph, E. coli and Enterococcus, a bug found in feces that can cause urinary tract infections and wound infections.

Another study found fecal bacteria on more than seventy percent of grocery shopping carts. Other culprits include reusable shopping bags, airplane bathrooms and seat-back trays, keyboards, desktops, boards and playground equipment.

So what’s the best way to avoid picking up these nasty germs on your next outing? Short of avoiding public bathrooms and never leaving the house, or wearing gloves whenever you do, not much. Bacteria are everywhere, and some of them are even beneficial because they boost immunity. Our bodies house “friendly” bacteria that live in our guts and keep our digestive systems humming.

But to minimize the number of icky microorganisms you encounter, you can carry your own paper towels, tissues and a bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer with you. Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face. Contracting a mild case of germophobia might just keep the bad bugs out.