Almost every medical or microbe expert in the world will cheerfully tell you the same thing: germs are everywhere, whether you like it or not.
Not that people should be overly concerned about becoming ill. According to Tierno, only about 1 to 2 percent of the 60,000 types of germs people come in contact with daily are potentially dangerous to people with normal immunity.
A few precautions -- using disinfectants, hand-washing, and keeping hands away from the face -- should be more than sufficient to avoid illnesses or viruses. Still, the higher the density of microbes on a particular object, the higher the chances of coming in contact with them as well as coming in contact with potentially harmful ones.
1. Gas pumps.
All self-service machines such as ATM machines and MetroCard machines are contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. Of these, the worst are gas pumps. In one study, researchers found that 71 percent of gas pump handles were highly contaminated and that the gas pump station – especially the “Enter” key -- was almost as bad. Carry a hand sanitizer in your vehicle and use it before and after pumping gas.
2. Shopping carts.
Dozens of people a day use a single shopping cart, and it can be cross-contaminated with germs from meat, dairy products, and fresh produce. Shopping cart handles have been shown to harbor bacteria, viruses, and saliva. In fact, the odds are a disgusting 72 percent that your shopping cart is smeared with fecal bacteria. Take advantage of the antibacterial wipes that many supermarkets and other stores now provide.
3. Restaurant surfaces.
Even the cleanest-looking restaurant abounds with bacteria. Rarely cleaned items such as menus carry an average of 185,000 bacteria while heavily handled utensil tubs can be contaminated with any of the approximately 150 species of bacteria that live on human hands. In one study, at least 50 percent of lemon wedges destined to be plopped in ice water were tainted with human fecal bacteria.
4. Trash Cans.
Anything that comes in contact with rotting food, dirty diapers, and pet waste should not be ignored. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that disease-causing bacteria, such as salmonella, listeria, and e. Coli lurking inside and outside our trash cans. This germ hot-spot can expose your family through cross contamination. Make sure your trash cans are cleaned on a monthly basis to protect you and your family.
5. The Kitchen Sink.
Bacteria love the moist metal aeration screen at the end of the faucet and up to 500,000 of colonies can accumulate in the sink. That’s a whopping 1,000 times the amount of bacteria found on an average toilet. In addition, bacteria thrive in and around the garbage disposal’s rubber stopper. At least once a week, disinfect the aeration screen, sink, and garbage disposal with a diluted bleach solution.
6. Dish Sponges and Rags.
These are the single germiest surfaces in the typical American household. A shocking 86 percent of dish sponges and rags harbor mold and yeast, 77 percent contain coliform bacteria, and 18 percent test positive for staphylococcus bacteria. Rinsing doesn’t rid these items of germs, so experts recommend microwaving wet sponges once a day for two minutes and washing rags on a hot cycle every day or two.
7. Stick Shift.
In a recent British study done for insurance.co.uk, microbiologists randomly tested both the interiors and trunks of 25 cars. They found that the typical British automobile had, on average, 285 types of bacteria present in every square inch of the vehicle. They identified at least 10 major types of bacteria.
8. Your Phone
As a person who constantly uses his phone it hurts for me to write this. These germs are not just from your hands, but sources like your saliva as well -- which is why the mouthpiece is often even dirtier than the handle. And again, it's not a device people clean too often, which is why both land lines and mobile phones present a problem.A study done in Israel last year showed that 20 percent of hospital workers' cell phones had some form of harmful bacteria on them.
9. Cutting Boards.
You may be better off preparing your food on another surface. According to Gerba, there are 200 times more fecal bacteria on a cutting board than a toilet seat. The reason, he explained, is that many people rinse off their cutting board rather than thoroughly washing it. "You have potential pathogens when you're dealing with food," said Tierno.He recommended preparing a solution of a quart of water and "a jigger of bleach" and then wiping down food preparation surfaces before making anything on those areas of the kitchen.
10. Garbage disposal.
Bacteria from last night's dinner could end up on today's food and utensils if you're not careful. That raw chicken or spinach you're rinsing for dinner is often loaded with harmful bacteria, which can make the young, the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system seriously ill. In fact, there are often more than 500,000 bacteria in the kitchen sink—about 1,000 times more than the average toilet has. Although the metal part of the disposal produces ions that can help kill germs, they still love to grow on the crevices in and around the slimy rubber stopper. That means your disposal can become party central for bacteria, contaminating whatever touches it—dishes, utensils, even your hands. At least once a week, clean the disposal's rubber stopper with a diluted bleach solution—soap and water aren't enough.
Now you know about the hot spots where germs like to multiply. Now go protect your friends and family and share with your neighbors.