Sadly, 60% of men and 40% of women do not wash hands after toilet use and, as a result, spread fecal matter (poop) from their unwashed hands to the most unusual places.
Read: Only 1 in 20 washes hands properly
Poop harbours coliforms, bacteria found in animals’ and humans’ digestive tract. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the main species in the coliform group and is considered the best indicator of fecal pollution and possible presence of pathogens. Most fecal coliforms will not make you sick but a rare E. Coli, strain 0157:H7, can cause serious illness.
Brace yourself as we take a tour of the places in your life which may be infested with microscopic poop particles.
1. Office Coffee Cups
This no joke, 40% of innocent looking office cups were found to be contaminated with the infamous coliform bacteria (usually found in fecal matter). AP News reported that a University of Arizona research team, which did the study, blamed the contamination on dirty sponges and dishrags used to wipe the cups. 20% of the sponges tested haboured E.coli.
According to the researchers an average sink sponge, one of the dirtiest items in most home, is 200,000 times dirtier than an average toilet seat. Dish towels were found to be 20,000 times dirtier.
To ensure you don’t sip a cocktail of fecal bacteria together with your coffee, experts recommend using hot soapy water to wash cups. Disinfect them in a bleach-and-water solution and whenever possible use a dishwasher. Regular disinfection of dish towels and sponges is a must to avoid contamination.
2. Cutting boards
Don’t trust that seemingly clean cutting board which you rinse every day. The research team discovered that an average cutting board is covered by 200 times more fecal matter than found on a toilet seat. The fecal matter came, not from humans, but from raw meat products.
Simply rinsing does not kill harmful bacteria. Experts recommend cleaning the board with a kitchen disinfectant or using a dishwasher. To avoid cross-contamination use separate cutting boards for vegetables and meat.
A study from the University of California showed wooden cutting boards are better than plastic ones because they have antimicrobial properties.
3. Hotel rooms
To their credit, most hotels try to present their valued guests with pristine looking rooms that make customers feel special and pampered. But hotel guests would be grossed out if they examined some hotel room items under the microscope.
According to research by the American Society for Microbiology, researchers from the University of Houston found hotel TV remotes to have high levels of fecal bacteria on them. Poop particles were also discovered on items in the housekeeping carts, on the toilet and on the bathroom sink.
If your hobby is keeping long beards we have bad news for you and your loved one (whose mouth is constantly contact with your facial hair.) Koat.com reported that microbiologist John Golobic, of Quest Diagnostics, New Mexico, says long beards are unhygienic. Golobic swabbed several beards and discovered that some contained high levels of fecal bacteria, which if similar samples were found in city’s water system would result in a shutdown for disinfecting.
Although he found no evidence that dirty beards pose a health risk he encouraged keep one’s hands away from one’s face and regular hand washing and beard scrubbing.
5. Swimming Pools
If you’ve always been weary of public swimming pools, you’ve every reason to be. In the findings of a study by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that in public swimming pools swimmers introduce feces into the water accidentally (e.g. when babies’ diapers leak) or when they swim without bathing their bodies. The CDC study showed that 58% of public pool water tested positive for E. coli. 2% of the water was found to contain Cryptosporidium and Giardia, germs that cause diarrhea and are spread through fecal matter.
Because chlorine and other chemicals do not kill germs instantly, swimmers are encouraged to bath before swimming. People who suffer from diarrhea may contaminate the pool with cryptosporidium which is chlorine resistant and can survive in the pool for days. It is recommended not to swim for 14 days after diarrhea stops.
To protect yourself do not swallow pool water. Wash before and after swimming. Don’t go swimming with a major cut or injury. Before using a pool, buy test trips to measure the water’s PH and the chlorine level.
6. Tooth brushes
If you share a bathroom with at least one other person there is a 80% chance you’ve brushed your teeth with the other person’s poop! This is according to research done by the American Society for Microbiology which found that 60% of toothbrushes collected from students who shared bathrooms had traces of fecal matter.
Thinking of covering your toothbrush? Don’t. The researchers said covering encourages growth of more bacteria. People sharing bathrooms are encouraged to practice good hygiene in storing their toothbrushes and to have good personal hygiene.
The American Dental Society’s tooth brush care tips include the following: replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months; do not share toothbrushes; rinse toothbrush with tap water after use and air dry. Avoid cross contamination by storing two or more toothbrushes separately.
7. Shopping trolleys
Some people enjoy eating during shopping sprees at the supermarkets. They are seen digging their hands into packets of crisps as they simultaneously touch shopping trolley handles. Eating while pushing a trolley is a health risk because, according to a research by Charles P. Gerba who researched bacterial contamination of shopping carts. 72% of the 85 shopping carts he swabbed at supermarkets had fecal matter. E. coli and coliform bacteria were found on shopping cart handles in levels that were higher than in public toilets and other public places.
Wiping trolley handles with anti-bacterial wipes before using them is good hygiene. So is washing or wiping your hands after shopping.
8. Reusable Shopping bags
Some folks like to save money and the environment by reusing the same a shopping bag over and over again. They may save a few cents but this habit may expose them to germs, including those found in poop. A research team focusing on potential for cross-contamination of food products by reusable shopping bags discovered that shoppers rarely wash reusable bags which are used for multiple purposes. Large numbers of bacteria were found on almost all the bags, and coliform bacteria were found on half the sample. 8% of the bags had E. coli.
The experts say there is a 99.9% reduction in bacteria on hand or machine washed bags.
Medical Daily reported that hand bags were also found to contain traces of fecal matter because owners tend to place them in unsanitary places.
9. Mobile Phone
Most people cannot stand to be separated from their mobile phones, even for a few hours. But then, according to Time.com researchers at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London analysed 780 swab samples from 12 UK cities.
Of these samples 390 were from mobile phones and the other 390 from the hands of mobile users. Sixteen percent (1 in every 6) phones and hands were found to be contaminated with E.coli.
Gazelle.com gives a few tips on keeping your phone clean: regularly wash your hands; clean your phone with an anti-bacterial ointment; use a phone shop charger which sterilizes your phone by surrounding it with UV light; don’t take your phone into the toilet and watch where you place your phone.
In another research study, that appeared on, PC Keyboards were also found to be contaminated by more fecal matter bacteria than is on a toilet seat.
10. Gym Climbing Wall
Gym climbing walls may keep one fit but they do have a down side. According to a study published on NCBI, 100% of the climbing holds tested positive for bacteria associated with fecal matter. It may be time to demand that your gym regularly disinfects its equipment.
Read: Bugs you can catch at the gym
Contamination of the above mentioned listed items can be avoided or reduced by practicing the simple but beneficial habit of hand-washing.
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Sources: News.am; BBC News; Food and Wine; MayoClinic
Image: bearded man, Shutterstock