Hidden Hazards: Public Restroom Cleanliness - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/14/05

Hidden Hazards: Public Restroom Cleanliness

Public restrooms - they're convenient but using them could leave you vulnerable to illnesses. Then there are those who don't wash their hands after using the bathroom.

"I think a lot of people are in a hurry and they can't see anything on their hands, they can't feel anything, they're dry," says Amy Legg, a nursing student. But what they don't know is harmful bacteria can survive on hands and when they turn the knob to leave they're also leaving behind those germs for you to touch on the door.

"The next person that comes along could actually come in contact with the bad bacteria," says  Rita Yee, specialist in microbiology at University Medical Center tells us organisms left on public restrooms could be dangerous, like fecal bacteria and strains of Staph and Shigella.

"Of growing concern is the MRSA organism," explains Rita. That's Methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus, a harmful bacteria that's resistant to certain antibiotics.

"It can still survive on surfaces for quite a bit of time, long enough for you to come along and probably touch it," says Rita.

So we went to ten public restrooms throughout Lubbock, swabbing the inside door handles to find out what you could be touching when you're leaving the restroom. We swabbed restrooms at the mall, four gas stations and four restaurants and after two weeks of growing cultures, this is what we found.

"The first one is the mall's restroom and it's the women's and this is what's growing out," says Rita. She tells us that's just normal skin bacteria found on most surfaces. Notice the men's mall restroom has less growth than the women's but again, nothing harmful. Moving on to the gas stations, the Phillips 66 only had one small growth, the Taylor Gas Station had more but was also normal. Town and Country's culture had more environmental bacteria found in things like dirt. "There's a bacillus in there that started to spread,"she says.

Our last gas station, 7-11 was the cleanest of them all. "This is the 7-11 restroom, look at that isn't that nice, there's no growth on there at all," she points out.

Now, to the restaurants, the two with the most growth: Whataburger and McDonald's. The fast food restaurant had the most growth of all the public restrooms we tested, which means it wasn't the cleanest. The good news: Rita says it's just dirt and skin.  "It just makes me feel good that we didn't find anything that can cause an infection," she says. But Rita encourages you to always wash your hands and avoid touching the handle just in case.

Next week we'll test restaurant playgrounds to find out if they pose a potential threat to you and your children.

Hidden Hazards: Shopping Carts
When you go shopping and it's your turn to push the cart, do you ever wonder what others are leaving behind on the handle you grab?

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