Workplace break room handles full of germs

ROSWELL, Ga., May 23 (UPI) -- Many U.S. workers are aware of germs in the workplace lavatory but they may not be aware of the high level of germs where they make coffee, researchers say.

The study by Kimberly-Clark Professional, in consultation with Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, collected nearly 5,000 individual swabs from office buildings housing more than 3,000 employees.


The participating office buildings represented a broad cross-section of office "types" including manufacturing facilities, law firms, insurance companies, healthcare companies and call centers.

Adenosine Triphosphate is present in all animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast and mold cells and its detection indicates the presence of contamination by any of these sources. Objects with an Adenosine Triphosphate reading of 300 Relative Light Units or higher are considered to have a high risk for illness transmission while those with readings of 100 RLU to 300 RLU suggest room for improvement in cleanliness.

The researchers said the office surfaces tested and found to have levels of contamination of Adenosine Triphosphate of 300 RLU or higher included:

-- 75 percent of break room sink faucet handles.

-- 48 percent of microwave door handles.


-- 27 percent of keyboards.

-- 26 percent of refrigerator door handles.

-- 23 percent of water fountain buttons.

-- 21 percent of vending machine buttons.

In addition, half of all computer mice and desk phones were found to have Adenosine Triphosphate count levels of 100 RLU or higher, the study said.

"No one can avoid illness entirely, but by washing, wiping and sanitizing, employees can reduce their rates of cold, flu and stomach illness by up to 80 percent," said Brad Reynolds of The Healthy Workplace Project, Kimberly-Clark Professional.

The Hygiena SystemSURE II ATP Meter used in the study said hygiene with a reading of:

-- 30 or less is excellent.

-- 30-75 is good.

-- 75-150 is an alert.

-- 150 and more is "out of control."

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