CHICAGO (CBS) — A new study conducted in Chicago and several other cities finds that gas pumps, mailboxes and escalator rails are among surfaces teeming with germs.
But WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports before you panic, a Chicago doctor prescribes taking the findings with a grain of salt.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports
The test was conducted by Kimberly-Clark, a company that sells hand sanitizers and other hygiene products. It says high levels biological contamination have been found on 71 percent of gas pump handles, 68 percent of mailbox handles, 43 percent of escalator rails, 41 percent of ATM buttons, and 40 percent of parking meters or kiosks.
A news release goes on to quote Kimberly-Clark Healthy Workplace Project official Brad Reynolds as calling the likelihood for illness-causing germs to transfer from objects such as ATMs and parking meters as “eye-opening.”
But is there reason to be alarmed? Dr. Rahul Khare of Northwestern Memorial Hospital agrees with the study that hand washing is important, but he emphasizes that we shouldn’t turn into a nation of germophobes.
“For years, we’ve had these bacteria all over the place – the desk, the computer, at the gas station, and the increase of infections has not actually gone up,” Khare said. “So I think that yes, you should wash your hands before you eat anything, and if you can’t get to any running water, then using gel is perfectly acceptable. But I wouldn’t worry about it too much.”
Where people should be meticulous, Khare says, is in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and any place where food is prepared.
The study was conducted in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia. Researchers tested for ATP, a vital molecule in cellular processes that is found in all cells belonging to animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and protozoa.
While the news release on the study warns of “disease-causing bacteria,” it also announces that the results are coming “just in time for cold and flu season.” However, the ATP test used in the study cannot detect cold or flu germs.
Colds and influenza are both produced by viruses, which are not capable of producing their own ATP and must invade a host cell to do so.