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Which Item in the Bathroom Has the Most Germs?

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Which item in your bathroom carries the most germs? No, it's not the toilet. Toilet paper? No.

The most likely candidate for most of us is our toothbrush.

According to a 2010 research study conducted by the University of Manchester in England, the average toothbrush hosts up to 100 million bacteria. These include various strains of staphylococci, which cause skin rashes; E. coli, which can cause diarrhea; and the viruses that cause all three types of hepatitis.

A damp toothbrush not only picks up germs from our mouth (which contains more than 600 different species of bacteria), it is also vulnerable to spray from a flushed toilet, which coats all objects within six feet in a fine bacteria-rich mist.

But before we start panicking and dipping our toothbrush in Chlorox each morning, it's worth bearing in mind that most of these bacteria are harmless unless they enter the bloodstream and, even then, pose very little threat to a healthy adult or child.

It's only certain mutant strains of E. coli, for example, that cause disease in humans. Most bacteria in our mouth and gut perform a useful function in helping to digest our food.

By rinsing and drying our toothbrushes after we use them (and closing the toilet seat before we flush) we significantly reduce the risk of bacterial infection.

Used properly, household bleach is also a very effective disinfectant- particularly on hard surfaces. The bleach effectively "cooks" the protein inside bacteria, rather like heat cooks the protein in egg white. Once the molecular structure has been transformed, the change is irreversible and the bacteria die. (Even so, no bleach can kill all known germs.)

But germs don't just live in bathrooms. Our desks harbor far more microbes than the average toilet seat. That's because we tend to clean our toilet seats regularly, but we rarely clean our workstations.

According to research carried out by the University of Arizona, an average desk is home to 10 million microbes. That's 20,961 microbes per square inch.

The most germ-laden item is the telephone, with 25,127 microbes per square inch. This is followed by our computer keyboards (3,295 per square inch). Next comes the computer mouse (with 1,676 per square inch). Toilet seats, by contrast, average only 95 microbes per square inch.

The most germ-riddled item in the bathroom after the toothbrush? The toilet handle. Not surprising now that we know that one in two people lie about washing their hands.

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Another example of the hazards of indoor living. Indoor living is unhealthy for many reasons - in my experience, the best way to stay healthy is to spend as much time outdoors as possible - preferably in a tropical clime.
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