In gross news, it turns out that the office kitchen and breakroom are more toxic than the restrooms. The areas with the highest concentration of germs at work? The fridge and microwave door handles.
This disturbing information comes from researchers at Kimberly-Clark who conducted an exhaustive two-year study measuring the hotspots for germs around the office. They collected 5,000 swabs from office buildings where more than 3,000 people work. These included workplaces across industries, including manufacturing facilities, law firms, insurance companies, healthcare companies and call centers.
Hygienists swabbed the objects to measure levels of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), which is present in all animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast and mold cells. Objects with an ATP reading of 300 or higher have a high risk transmitting illnesses.
The areas around the office that had the highest contamination levels (ATP count of 300 or higher) included:
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
Along with those toxic hotspots, half of all computer mice tested were found to have ATP levels above 100; meaning they are in serious need of cleaning. 43% of telephones inspected also had low levels of contamination, making the mouthpiece a probable conduit for bacteria.
“This study demonstrates that contamination is all over the workplace and has the potential to reach people where they eat and prepare food, as well as elsewhere,” said Brad Reynolds, North American Platform Leader, The Healthy Workplace Project, Kimberly-Clark Professional. “No one can avoid it entirely, but by washing, wiping and sanitizing, employees can reduce their rates of cold, flu and stomach illness by up to 80%.”
Disturbing as it is to think about the germy shared surfaces at work, it’s better to know. Take Mr. Reynolds advice: wash your hands frequently, and consider using hand sanitizer. Oh, and be kind to the cleaning staff. They’re your first line of defence against the bacteria that’s apparently everywhere.