The Ick Factor: New Study Reveals Where Germs Are Hidden in Offices

Got germs? Then again, how would you know if you can’t see ’em, right?

According to a recent study published by Kimberly-Clark Proffessional, germs are in abundance at the typical office! Think about it: The refrigerator handle is a breeding ground for germs as is the microwave door.

Researchers swabbed almost 5,000 surfaces (yes, you read that right — 5,000!) in office buildings that have approximately 3,000 employees. Thinking about where people go and what they touch (ahem, door knobs and elevator buttons), researchers analyzed swabs using a device that assesses sanitary conditions. The ATP meter measures levels of adenosine triphosphate, a molecule found in animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast, and mold cells.

Okay, we’re getting a bit too technical here but high numbers on the meter indicate surfaces are officially at high risk for spreading illnesses via germs.  As for the dirtiest locations? They’re related to food.

Here’s a breakdown of the bacteria-laden results:

• 75 percent of break room sink-faucet handles

• 48 percent of microwave door handles

• 27 percent of keyboards

• 26 percent of refrigerator door handles

• 23 percent of water fountain buttons

• 21 percent of vending machine buttons

So now that we know which workplace venues gross us out, there are a few things to do to rock out to your inner germophobe. First, repeatedly wash your hands thoroughly.

If a faucet isn’t nearby, you can always use an alcohol-based hand gel. This helps when you touch your keyboard and then grab a bite to eat at your desk and vice versa.

You can also sanitize your desk by wiping down your keyboard with disinfectant wipes. This includes your mouse and your phone. Not only that, you may want to get into the habit of doing it every morning or at the end of every day.

Some employers have implemented hand sanitizers at the end of each hallway which isn’t such a bad idea! It’s available and visible to employees and will hopefully deter spreading germs in the office.

Dr. Charles Gerba, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Arizona and consultant on the project, explained in the press release, “People are aware of the risk of germs in the restroom, but areas like break rooms have not received the same degree of attention. This study demonstrates that contamination can be spread throughout the workplace when office workers heat up lunch, make coffee or simply type on their keyboards.”

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