Where the germs are: Bacteria lurk in surprising places

Posted: Sunday, March 04, 2007

Paperwork isn't all that's piling up on your desk these days. According to a recent study led by University of Arizona researcher Dr. Charles Gerba, the average office workstation is a breeding ground for germs, harboring 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.

"For bacteria, a desk is really the laptop of luxury," Gerba said.

The study included samples collected from 113 private offices and cubicles in buildings located in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

The workplace items found to have the most germs included telephones, keyboards, computer monitors and desktops.

According to a 2006 American Dietician Association survey, more than 75 percent of workers "only occasionally" clean their desks before eating, while another 20 percent never do.

"As people spend more time at their desks, germs find plenty to snack on," Gerba said. "Desks are really bacteria cafeterias."

The study also found that bacteria levels in women's offices were nearly three times higher than in men's.

"What we found is that women seemed to have more 'stuff' in their offices, from makeup bags to pictures of family and purses on their desks," Gerba said. "It added up to big numbers for women, even though their offices typically look cleaner."

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