Warning: This story might make your skin crawl.
A new study has found that the gas pump is the germiest, filthiest thing we touch in everyday life. That's according to Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona -- and he should know. A microbiologist, he's known by the nickname "Dr. Germ."
In research results released Tuesday, Gerba found that 71% of gas pump handles and 68% of corner mailbox handles are "highly contaminated" with the kinds of germs most associated with a high risk of illness. The study, reported in USA Today, says that 41% of ATM buttons and 43% of escalator rails are similarly teeming with germs.
Other highly contaminated places that many people probably never considered before, and now might fear using, are parking meters and kiosks, about 40% of which are fouled by germs. Crosswalk buttons and vending machines were tied at 35%.
As part of the study, hygienists swabbed suspected germ hotspots and then analyzed the findings. They used general industry sanitary standards as their benchmark, according to Gerba.
Gerba joined forces with Kimberly-Clark Professional's Healthy Work Place Project, a subsidiary of the manufacturer of tissues, hand sanitizer and the like. (The project's website says sick employees cost the average business about $1,320 per employee.)
So what are we supposed to do? Apparently, it's all about "hand hygiene" -- washing your hands throughout the day -- and wiping down your work station with a cleaning product (naturally) because a desktop, keyboard and computer mouse can be a breeding ground for germs, say the folks at Kimberly-Clark.
"As your computer boots up, wipe down your desk and mouse," Brad Reynolds, leader of Kimberly-Clark's Healthy Workplace Project, said in the USA Today article. He also advised swabbing conference tables between meetings.