What’s the Dirtest Place in Your Bathroom?

I hate to start off the weekend with a downer, but being a less-than-fastidious housekeeper myself, I couldn’t help but notice the article “The Germiest Place in Your Bathroom Isn’t Your Toilet” by Julissa Treviño (http://time.com/5514669/bacteria-germs-bathroom/?). And like the title says, it’s not where you think.

According to a 2011 study on household germs, conducted by the global public health and safety organization NSF International, it’s the toothbrush holder. During the study, researchers tested 30 surfaces—six in the bathroom—in 22 homes for bacteria, yeast and mold. While 27% of toilet seats contained mold and yeast, 64% of toothbrush holders did. Of the toothbrush holders, 27% had coliform (an indicator of potential fecal contamination) and 14% had staph. “The toothbrush holder often has many of the factors germs need,” says Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist at NSF International. “It is dark, damp and not cleaned as frequently as it should be.”

So should you be worried? Probably not. The germs the study discovered can be health risks, but chances are you won’t catch anything. According to
Sean Gibbons, an assistant professor at the Institute for Systems Biology, a nonprofit research institution in Seattle, most gut bacteria don’t survive when they leave the body, so the fecal bacteria that are found in places like bathrooms are dead. “There is minimal to zero risk,” he says. “[Most people] are healthy enough to prevent it from hurting it us.”

Still, it’s a bit unsettling to realize bacteria are all over our bathrooms. Even flushing the toilet with the lid up can help them spread due to an aerosol effect. The best defense is to just keep washing your hands.

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