Public washrooms are less germy than we think

7th of April 2016
Public washrooms are less germy than we think

Public washrooms are no more 'germy' than the average toilet at home, according to experts.

And lavatories are less-than-ideal breeding grounds for bacteria which means that most die off quickly in any case. These were among the findings of a US study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

"The restroom isn't that dangerous," concluded the study's co-author Jack Gilbert. "The organisms that can grow there have a very low probability of being able to cause an infection."

Study researchers found an average of 500,000 bacterial cells per square inch on the surfaces of public washrooms - thought to be no more than the amount found in the average toilet at home.

"Faecal bacteria are less hearty than bacteria found on the skin and die off faster when exposed to the cool, dry, oxygen-rich environment of a public restroom," said Sean Gibbons, a science student from the University of Chicago. "Bacteria associated with skin are more able to persist and over time, they win out."

When a US programme called The Drs investigated the cleanliness of public washrooms in 2014 they found the most germ-laden surface to be the toilet paper dispenser which harboured around 150 per cent more bacteria than toilet seats tested in the experiment.

And in 1997 a University of Arizona study found fecal bacteria, salmonella and typhoid fever in the sinks of one in 10 public toilets. However immunologist Denise Kennedy who helped run the study concluded that any risk to visitors was slight if they avoided touching the inside of the sink when washing their hands.


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