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Germy Office Surfaces: Study Reveals Most Contaminated Items At Work

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted:

Germy Office Surfaces

Before you unwrap that sandwich at your desk or in the office break room, you might what to read this.

The most high-illness risk surfaces in your office are located in exactly those two places, according to a new study.

Kimberly-Clark Professional and Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, conducted 5,000 swabs on surfaces in office buildings used by a total of 3,000 people. The types of offices ran the gamut, from healthcare companies, to law firms, to call centers.

The study researchers were aiming to obtain the levels of adenosine triphosphate, found in animal, mold, yeast, bacteria and vegetable cells. ATP levels give an idea of how many microorganisms are present on a surface. If a surface has an ATP level of 300 or above, that surface is considered a possible risk for illness. ATP levels of 100 or above mean that the surface could definitely be cleaner.

The researchers found that surfaces in office break rooms and one frequently used desk object were the germiest -- meaning, they had ATP levels of 300 or above. And other common desk items -- like phones and computer mice -- didn't get off scot-free: They were found to have ATP levels of 100 or above.

While the study didn't directly relate bacteria levels to illness, a higher ATP level "indicates that there’s more bacteria, so the odds are certainly greater that you might come across an organism that may make you sick," study researcher Gerba told HuffPost in an email.

As a comparison, the ATP levels of a toilet seat "is is less than 200, and there’s 400 more times bacteria on an office desktop than the toilet seat," Gerba told HuffPost. "The safest place from germs in the office is the toilet seat. That’s because no one cleans their desktops."

Take a look at how common office items fared in the latest study. Are you surprised by any of these? Will the findings impact your workplace cleanliness efforts?

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  • Vending Machine Buttons

    Twenty-one percent of vending machine buttons had ATP counts of 300 or higher.

  • Water Fountain Buttons

    Twenty-three percent of water fountain buttons had ATP counts of 300 or higher.

  • Refrigerator Door Handles

    Twenty-six percent of refrigerator door handles had ATP counts of 300 or higher.

  • Keyboards

    Twenty-seven percent of keyboards had APT counts of 300 or higher.

  • Microwave Door Handles

    Forty-eight percent of microwave door handles had APT counts of 300 or higher.

  • Sink Faucet Handles

    Seventy-five percent of sink faucet handles in break rooms had ATP counts of 300 or higher.

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    The Doctors uncover the five germiest places you'd never expect.

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