“As the day ramps up and more people touch more surfaces, the risk of coming in contact with bacteria goes up. Contamination levels reach their peak around lunch,” environmental microbiologist, Kelly Reynolds Phd, explained to WebMD over the weekend. “We touch a lot of different surfaces that hundreds of others might be touching. Germs spread quickly.”
Reynolds is also a professor at the University of Arizona, applying three decades worth of pathogen expertise towards exposure science and risk assessment. On the back of a report previously covered by Ladders out of Auburn University that disclosed the alarming volume of germs we come into contact with on airplanes, Dr. Reynolds forwards similar findings in regards to the place we spend the majority of our time: our offices.
According to her principled research, the average office desk houses over 10 million bacterial organisms (which is significantly more than the amount found on toilets). Doorknobs, elevator buttons, vending machine buttons, coffeepots, microwaves, and breakroom refrigerators were also revealed to harbor a considerable amount of germs.
“Bacteria and viruses survive really well on surfaces,” Reynolds says. “Soap and water aren’t enough to kill them; you need to use a product with a disinfectant.”
To better contextualize these figures, environment and sustainable living author Jodi Helmer set Reynolds’s data on executive costs and its relative impact on employee absenteeism. Two hundred and sixty billion dollars are lost annually due to illness-induced call outs. Ninety-two percent of office phones become contaminated with infectious germs including staphylococci and E. coli and it takes as little as four hours for employees to spread these transmissible bacterias to 50% of their co-workers.
“When it comes to avoiding germs, including the germs you encounter at work, the best public health intervention is still handwashing,” Reynolds explained.
Academic literature appears to agree. A study published in Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health determined that habitual handwashing reduced one’s risk for contracting common viruses by 77%. Even more substantially, up to 100% of communicable bacteria were eliminated after cleaning a keyboard with an antibacterial wipe.