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The Truth About Germs

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This might give you pause before heating up leftovers for lunch at work: among the dirtiest spots in a typical office are the microwave door and refrigerator door handles in the break room. You probably already touched both today.

In a new study by Kimberly-Clark Professional, researchers swabbed nearly 5,000 surfaces in office buildings housing about 3,000 employees. The offices included law firms, insurance companies, health care companies, call centers and manufacturing facilities.
The swabs were analyzed with an ATP meter, a device commonly used to assess sanitary conditions in industry. It measures levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule found in all animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast and mold cells. High ATP levels are present in food or other organic residues left on surfaces. The more ATP found on a surface, the more likely it’s flourishing with bacteria and viruses.Office Germs

An ATP reading of over 100 suggests a surface could use a scrub-down. Readings of 300 or higher are considered officially dirty and at high risk for spreading illness. Note the meter doesn’t directly measure germs, but the dirty surfaces they cling to.
The dirtiest office surfaces found to have ATP counts of 300 or higher were as follows:

75% of break room sink faucet handles
48% of microwave door handles
27% of  keyboards
26% of refrigerator door handles
23% of water fountain buttons
21% of vending machine buttons

Surfaces with readings over 100 that could use disinfecting included:

91% of break room sink faucet handles
80% of microwave door handles
69% of keyboards
69% of refrigerator door handles
53% of water fountain buttons
51% of all computer mice
51% of all desk phones
48% of all coffee pots and dispensers
43% of vending machine buttons

It’s impossible to avoid germs entirely, but according to Brad Reynolds of Kimberly-Clark Professional’s Healthy Workplace Project, diligent washing, wiping and sanitizing can help office workers reduce their rates of cold, flu and stomach illness by up to 80%.

 

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