Germ Encounters: LA’s Filthiest Surfaces

Gas pumps top lists of filthiest surfaces to touch

A team of hygienists swabbed hundreds of surfaces around Los Angeles and five other cities and discovered filth was everywhere.

But one surface -- gas pump handles -- really fueled concern. The tests by Kimberly-Clark showed gas pump handles top the list of the dirtiest surfaces people touch every day. 

"It comes down to the fact that nobody cleans the things that you're going to touch on a daily basis," said  Dr. Kelly Arehart, program leader of Kimberly-Clark's Healthy Workplace Project.

Such everyday objects are breeding grounds for the worst bacteria and viruses, according to researchers. And, they could be transmitting illnesses.

Germs from hands can transfer seven times before leaving the skin. With all the cars on LA freeways, that's a lot of germs moving around -- from the steering wheel to your home to the office, and everywhere in between.

As terrible as this sounds, Linda Dickey, a Nurse at UCI Medical Center, says it doesn't mean you'll necessarily get sick when you touch everyday things. She advises hand-washing and the all-important advice your mother may have given you -- keep your hands away from your  mouth.

"Our bodies are built to protect us," said Dickey. "You have to have enough organism that you come in contact with to even get sick in the first place... for every day, a little dirt won't hurt you. "

Below, you'll find the filthiest public surfaces tested and the percentage of which were found to have high levels of contamination:  

  • 71 percent of gas pump handles
  • 68 percent of mailbox handles
  • 43 percent of escalator rails
  • 41 percent of ATM buttons
  • 40 percent of parking meters/kiosks
  • 35 percent of crosswalk buttons
  • 35 percent of vending machine buttons

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