We're gonna go ahead and guess that you don't care much for germs. Nobody goes around saying, "Oh yeah, gimme that filthy stuff, baby." (Not in this context, anyway.) And yet, so many of the objects we use every day are spectacularly good at gathering bacteria. Listen, we're not trying to make every germaphobe reading this toss all their belongings into a fire. All we're saying is that if there are any aliens watching us, they likely think we invented the following items for the specific purpose of spreading tiny, disease-causing organisms.
Way back in 2009, we talked about how filthy an office telephone can be, housing up to 25,127 germs per square inch. Now that everyone carries slick, modern, super advanced smartphones, we're probably much cleaner, right? Hahaha, nope. Not even close.
The problem with smartphones is that they're portable and super handy, and we have a tendency to whip them out anywhere and everywhere, from restaurants to restrooms. You may know restrooms as "those places with poop particles floating around everywhere." But how dirty could our smartphones things be? According to researchers from the University of Arizona, about ten times dirtier than the average toilet seat. Which is rather troubling for an item intended to be pressed closely to your face. Like, your undies are almost definitely dirtier than your phone, but if you're talking into them, you're probably using them wrong.
One study tested smartphones belonging to secondary school students. Not only were the phones loaded with potentially harmful bacteria, but researchers hypothesized that they also contributed to the spread of illnesses throughout the community. OK, so you probably suspected teenagers were doing that anyway, but what about doctors and nurses? Surely, they of all people understand the importance of keeping things clean? That's ... not what the evidence says.
Studies carried out everywhere from the U.S. to Egypt to Australia tested phones belonging to hospital workers and found that a clear majority (75 to 100 percent) carried bacteria. In France, 42 out of 109 hospital workers' smartphones carried viruses, while in Turkey, 25 out of 200 tested positive for MRSA -- you know, that superbug that fills your body with pus-oozing boils. So if you've got a hospital stay coming up, here's hoping your phone-addicted doctor doesn't have another patient with flesh-eating bacteria.
If you're reducing your carbon footprint via reusable grocery bags, congratulations for helping the environment! And the opposite of congratulations for possibly contaminating your food and personal space with bacteria. And, oh yeah, poop.
According to researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University, only 3 percent of shoppers who have reusable bags ever wash them. As a result, half of the bags tested carried coliform bacteria, while 8 percent contained E. coli. That's E. coli as in "the stuff growing in fresh turds." And don't assume you're in the clear just because you're not hopping a squat over your bag; the fecal bacteria can make its way in there through transfer from a grocery cart, checkout counter, or food packaging. In other words, that (literal) shit is everywhere, including your spiffy bag.
To top it all off, you're probably making the problem even worse by storing the bags in the trunk of your car. While that might seem like the most convenient place to keep them, bacteria love the warm, dark environment, and will seize the opportunity to reproduce. Rapidly. That's right, if the junk in your trunk includes your shopping bags, you're probably the proud owner of a shit bacteria ranch you never knew about.
The solution? There are lots of tips to prevent bacteria from getting out of hand, but the most important is to wash those freaking things. That, or learn to juggle a large number of items and do away with bags altogether.
By now you're probably feeling a bit germy, but before you hop in the shower to de-funk, there are a few things you should know. As it happens, bacteria love a hot shower even more than we do, so you're probably covering your body in a whole lot more than soap.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that shower heads have a way of concentrating nasty bacteria. Specifically, 15 out of the 50 shower heads they analyzed contained Mycobacterium avium, which is linked to pulmonary disease. That stuff was always in the water; the issue is that shower heads are remarkably good at accumulating it and then blasting it right at your face while you think you're cleaning yourself.
Oh, and you know that soapy crud that builds up on your shower curtain? That's a biofilm containing more than a billion bacteria per cubic inch. Between the shower head and the curtain, you're basically surrounding yourself with bacteria, and when you add splattering water and steam to the mix, you're effectively "enmeshed in a bio-aerosol" of germs. Which is as healthy as it sounds.
In fact, according to the National Jewish Hospital (but this applies to all religions that believe in bathing), dirty shower heads are largely to blame for the increase in respiratory infections caused by "non-tuberculosis mycobacteria" (NTM). One study worked backwards, testing the shower heads in the homes of 20 patients with NTM infections. Mycobacteria was present in all but one home. And it gets even worse. One shower head that researchers found loaded with mycobacteria was treated with a bleach solution to get rid of the nasties ... which resulted in a threefold increase. This means the species of bacteria is, or is becoming, resistant to chlorine. Quick, go take a nice hot bath before we find out that's somehow killing you too.
Nobody likes dust, but that doesn't stop us from becoming big-time collectors. Trouble is, dust isn't merely unsightly stuff that makes you sneeze and casts aspersions on your housekeeping abilities. It's also full of toxic substances that can be more than a little harmful to your health. So "being incredibly hard to clean off Legos" isn't the worst part about it after all.
A study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that household dust contains chemicals and microparticle residue from cleaners, electronics, cosmetic products, construction materials, and various other substances in your home. The team found 45 different toxic chemicals that were common in dust, with some of the most popular being flame retardants, phenols, and phthalates. Those sound like words we made up, but they're chemicals associated with cancer, infertility, development problems in children, and other fun stuff like that.
"So what? It's not like I'm licking the dust off my desk, Cracked!" That's not how it works, dear straw reader. Keep in mind that the toxic dust doesn't only collect on your flat surfaces. It's in the air you breathe, and when you touch dusty stuff and get it on your skin, those chemicals can be absorbed into your body. It might be time to invest in a microfiber cloth or 20, is what we're saying.
Turns out sponges are even better at holding bacteria than they are at holding water. They're really good at it, actually. They're like ... some sort of thing that's great at soaking up stuff, we don't know.
Multiple studies have shown that kitchen sponges are absolute breeding grounds for bacteria, and while you might not be surprised to hear that they're dirty, you should be shocked at exactly how much and what kind of bacteria are lurking in that thing you rub all over your eating utensils. A British study estimates that the average sponge harbors a whopping 19.6 billion bacteria. What kind? Another study, this one from Germany, found that most kitchen sponges contain E. coli and salmonella, and are the "biggest reservoirs of active bacteria in the whole house." Yes, bigger than the place where you drop your poop.
Before you pat yourself on the back for regularly cleaning your sponge, we have more bad news for you. One study found significantly more bacteria in sponges that were regularly sanitized, which means there's little hope for getting a sponge truly clean once it's seen use. Researchers recommend replacing your sponge about once every week, and not "whenever it starts falling apart," as we've been doing until now.
A few years ago, we talked about how your laundry gets covered in poop from being washed with underwear, and how one load of undies fills the wash water with 100 million E. coli bacteria, give or take a skid mark. While that's still very true and very gross, the nasty doesn't stop there.
See, regular washing doesn't kill germs in laundry, so your machine collects bacteria from all the clothing and linens from all the people and pets in your household. The accumulated germs sit there and chill until they have the chance to party on your clothes or your hands when you touch wet laundry. Now, if you have your own washing machine and live alone, you're pretty much just recycling your own germs. But if you share a machine with other people? Then you're wearing their funk on your body every time you put on your clothes. That weird guy from the laundromat might as well have rubbed his sweaty butt all over you.
One study from the University of Arizona (which has a whole building devoted to filth-related research, it seems) found that a single germ-laden article of clothing "infected" 90 percent of the load it was washed with. This becomes a huge problem when someone sharing your washer is sick, since most "organisms that cause colds, flu and stomach flu ... will survive the wash cycle." How can you get rid of the Petri dish inside your washer? Experts recommend periodically letting it go through a wash cycle with no clothes, just bleach and water. You can also hang your clothing to dry in the sun, as UV radiation kills even the most stubborn poop and flu bacteria. Alternatively, wait for the sun to expand and cleanse the entire world with its beautiful, purifying fire.
Getting a new shower head might be a good idea -- check out this one that changes colors!
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