Well Being

Public Restrooms More Disgusting Than We Thought

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MSNBC released one of our favorite kinds of stories today: one that makes us feel like we are all covered in germs and doomed for diarrhea. Yes, we already know that public restrooms are some of the grossest and most germ-infested places on the planet, but according to their report, we didn't know just how disgusting they really are. And apparently, neither did they.

From December 2010 through February of this year, scientists tested the bathrooms surfaces in U.S. restaurants, airplanes, stores, hospitals and other public place. This included swapping and culturing the places we are most likely to touch, like the toilets, faucets and door handles. What they found is that pretty much everything is covered with disease-causing bugs including staphylococcus (which can cause fevers and chills) and bacillus (which can cause diarrhea). What's even worse, according to the findings in a paper to be presented tomorrow to the Infectious Diseases Society of America in Boston, in some cases, the bug colonies were too large to even be measured.

Gross, right?

Dr. Lennox Archibald, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine who will present the results, told MSNBC:

I was surprised (at the sheer quantity of creepy crawlies) but, at same time, I wasn’t surprised because people use these things and people touch things. It does make you step back a bit and stake stock of the whole hand-hygiene thing. And yes, it could make one paranoid.

Paranoid is right. Is the whole world just one big germ-infested place? It's bad enough that the fear of these so-called “creepy crawlies” have turned us into a bunch of germaphobes who flush the toilet with our feet, turn on the faucets with our elbows and open doors with our sleeves pulled over our hands, but now this just gives us more reason to hold it until we get home. Or just never leave the house.

Regardless, Archibald leaves us with some very useful advice:

If you have to use it, you have to use it. You just have to be careful where you touch after you wash your hands. You can wash your hands till the cows come home. (If we swab your freshly scrubbed palms and culture the results), you are going to grow something.

Ew. Time to stock up on Purell.

Photo: Thinkstock