Cold & Flu Prevention

The 6 Dirtiest Places in the Office

Allison Tsai Aug 21st, 2014 (updated Nov 24th, 2015)
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Faucet handles
Faucet handles

You may think the bathroom is the worst germ offender, but it’s actually the break room and kitchen. Researchers collected 5,000 swabs from office buildings and used a device that assesses sanitary conditions, called the ATP meter. It measures the type of environment bacteria favor.  A count of 300 means there is a high risk of illness, and 75 percent of break room sink faucet handles had 300 or higher.

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Microwave door handle
Microwave door handle

They also found that 48 percent of microwave handles had ATP counts of 300 or higher. ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is the universal energy molecule found in all animal, plant, bacteria, yeast and mold cells. Large amounts are present in food and organic material, which when left on the surface can grow bacteria.

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Keyboards
Keyboards

Researchers found that 27 percent of keyboards had ATP counts of 300 and higher, but that generally, workers keep their personal spaces pretty clean. They found that half of all computer mice and desk phones had ATP counts over 100, and suggest workers need more awareness of the importance of good hand and surface hygiene in the office.

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Refrigerator door handle
Refrigerator door handle

Around 26 percent of refrigerator door handles had an ATP count of 300 and higher, which can be a bit concerning if a person goes directly from opening the fridge to eating a sandwich. This is where simple sanitary solutions can go a long way. Having an ample supply of sanitizing wipes in kitchens, and easy access to hand sanitizers can help stop the spread of germs.

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Water fountain buttons
Water fountain buttons

When you go to the drinking fountain for some water, you may be coming away with more than you bargained for.  Researchers found that 23 percent of the buttons on water fountains had ATP counts of 300 or higher. While researchers say no one can avoid germs entirely, employees can reduce their risk of cold and flu by 80 percent if they wash, wipe and sanitize their hands and work area.

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Vending machine buttons
Vending machine buttons

Vending machines also harbor one of the highest contamination points. Particularly the buttons, as 21 percent were found to have ATP counts of 300 or higher. Researchers warn that contract cleaners that disinfect common areas every day aren’t enough to keep germs at bay. Workers need to actively reduce the spread of germs in the office.