NEW YORK (MainStreet) – If you tend to obsess about germs, you may want to put on your hazmat suit for this one.
Researchers from Kimberly-Clark Professional, the workplace cleaning division of the Kimberly Clark Corporation (Stock Quote: KMB), went around swabbing various surfaces that humans interact with on a daily basis to test their levels of bacterial contamination. Unsurprisingly, it found that the things you touch on a daily basis are riddled with germs – mainly because everyone else is touching them on a daily basis, too.
The worst offenders are gas pump handles, 71% of which were found to have “high levels of contamination.” Close behind were mailbox handles, 68% of which were likewise crawling with germs.
The researchers conducted the study not by testing for specific microbes, but by swabbing for the presence of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – which, for those who don’t remember their high school biology, is the molecule in cells used to transfer energy. ATP is found in the cells of all life, from deadly bacteria to human beings. While ATP alone isn’t harmful to humans, its presence is usually a good indicator that pathogens are near, and the researchers considered a surface to have “a high risk for illness transmission” if it registered an ATP reading of more than 300 on an ATP meter.
The findings suggest that there are few surfaces generally free of contamination. Even ATMs are infested, with 41% of ATM buttons found to have high levels of contamination. So, if you want to minimize your chances of getting sick, we’d suggest carrying around a bottle of hand sanitizer.
In all, researchers took about 50 samples each from seven types of surfaces in six cities. Here’s what percentage of each surface was found to be infected.
1. Gas Pump Handles (71%)
2. Mailbox Handles (68%)
3. Escalator Rails (43%)
4. ATM Buttons (41%)
5. Parking Meters/Kiosks (40%)
6. Crosswalk Buttons (35%)
7. Vending Machine Buttons (35%)
—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.