Attention travelers! As many of us head home on flights for the holidays, we know to prepare for the inconvenience of long lines. There are an estimated 2.55 million passengers traveling per day on U.S. airlines this Thanksgiving holiday. What we may not realize is the number of germs that also await us at the airport.
A study published in 2018 found that the dirtiest part of an airport is not in the bathroom like you may expect, but in an unavoidable part of the airport we must all pass through — security check.
Security check bins are the dirtiest part of an airport
Traveling may bring us closer together to our loved ones, but it also brings us closer in contact with infectious diseases. A study in BMC Infectious Diseases recently found the highest concentration of viruses in the plastic bins you put your clothes and technology onto in security check.
To test this, researchers collected air and surface samples at Finland airport Helsinki-Vantaa during flu season. They checked the samples for influenza, as well as other viruses like respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus, rhinovirus, and coronaviruses.
While escalator handrails, check-in touch screens, and toilet seats were cleared from having any of the viruses, the hand-carried luggage boxes at the security check area tested positive for the viruses half of the time, posing the biggest risk.
“Of the surfaces tested, plastic security screening trays appeared to pose the highest potential risk, and handling these is almost inevitable for all embarking passengers,” the study warned.
Security trays may be the filthiest part of an airport because of all the ways that our bodies touch them, increasing the risk of spreading diseases.
“The germiest parts of the airport are the same as the germiest parts of the rest of the world — anything people touch,” infectious disease specialist Paul Pottinger said in a video warning travelers. After you come in contact with a high-touch surface like security bins, Pottinger said you can wash your hands with soap and water. “Clean hands make a difference,” he said. After you leave the airport, the work of fighting infectious germs is not over. You are going to want to have clean hands for the amount of germs that await you on the actual plane.
As you pack for your upcoming trips, you want to remember to take time to regularly wash your hands after passing through airports and airplanes. Your immune system is going to appreciate it.