Travelling can be fun, particularly if you’re heading off on vacation. Perhaps a little stressful when travelling with a family, but once you get through the hurdles of security and customs it’s generally smooth sailing. For most, security and customs is the most stressful part of the trip. You’re stuck in lines. You never know when you’re going to pull the dreaded “SSSS” card and get to have a complete search; body, shoes and luggage. You’re inches behind the person in front of you and only have inches between you and the person who happens to be breathing down your back. If you’re really lucky, the people in front of you are leaving on their honeymoon and can’t keep their hands or mouths off of each other. While I prescribe that PDA’s are not needed at any time of the day, I particularly have no interest in observing prior to 9am in the morning...
I’ve written previous Talk Clean To Me blogs about the perils of travel and the fact that bugs can be found on everyone and anywhere. If you want or need a refresher of how gross travelling on planes can be, you can check out I’m leaving on a jet plane and I fly, you fly we all share bugs together. We all know that the plane itself can be a hotspot for picking up bugs, and due to the lack of hand hygiene, bathrooms, elevator buttons, hand rails etc. can be contaminated. However, have you thought about the level of contamination on one of the first items we touch at airports? After we get our tickets, where do we line up? Security. What happens there? We stand in line with 100’s of other people. What do people have in common? We carry or may be carrying germs.
A new study published by researchers from Finland and Britain found that half of the grey plastic airport security bins may be carrying infectious viruses. The researchers took environmental swabs and tested them for influenza A and B viruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, rhinovirus and coronaviruses (e.g. SARS and MERS). Of the 90 environmental samples taken in total, 8 were from the grey bins. While a very small sample size, 4 of the 8 were found to have respiratory viruses while none of the 42 samples taken around toilets showed any sign of the viruses.
Similar to any commonly touched surface, this really shouldn’t be surprising. At Toronto Pearson Airport about 1,100 flights take off per day. If you consider that the smallest plane only carries around 14 people and the largest carries 525 people, there are a WHOLE LOT of people going through security and using the grey bins. Where people congregate, germs are sure to be found. It’s unrealistic to think that the bins are going to be cleaned and disinfected between uses. An airport is not a hospital. We can hope that they are cleaned daily, but the likelihood is that they’re only cleaned when visibly dirty. It’s up to us to protect ourselves. Wash your hands or use the hand sanitizer that is very likely hanging on your briefcase, your purse or laying at the bottom of your bag.