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Four Places You Insert Money, Get Lots of Germs

ATM machine

When you insert money into a vending machine or your credit card into a card reader, you are likely getting much more than a fill-up of your gas tank or a cup of hot coffee. Although you can’t see them, the extra “bonus” you get is lots of germs, according to the Russian language TV program, Your Health.

Germs are a part of life

You wash your hands after using the toilet, but do you wash them after using a machine or device that has been touched by thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people? Probably not. Here are four places where you insert your money and can get lots of germs in return.

ATM machines dispense more than cash
According to a study reported in the Daily Mail Reporter, scientists who took swabs from the numeric key pads on ATMs around England found that the bacteria on the swabs were similar to those found on the seats of public toilets. Dr. Richard Hastings, a microbiologist for BioCote, the company that conducted the swab tests, noted that “the bacteria we detected on ATMs were similar to those from the toilet, which are well known as causes of common human illnesses.”

What to do: you can (1) use the eraser end of a pencil or other object to push the keys, (2) wear gloves, (3) wash your hands with an antibacterial cloth after using an ATM

Pay phones dial up germs
You don’t see as many pay phones around anymore, but they are available in some heavily traveled areas, such as subway and train stations, hotel and motels, and airports. Pay phones are a haven for germs not only on the key pads but on the receiver and especially the mouthpiece.

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What to do: If at all possible, do not use pay phones. If it’s an emergency, wipe off the key pad, receiver, and mouthpiece with an antibacterial cloth if you have one available. If not, keep your mouth away from the mouthpiece as much as possible and wash your hands as soon as possible. Use a pencil or similar object to punch the keys.

Gas pumps give more than fuel
When you insert your credit card into the card reader at the gas pump, you want to fill up with gas, not germs. Yet here are at least two opportunities to be exposed to germs. One is on the handle of the gas pump, which harbors not only germs but molecules from the fuel as well. The key pad on the gas pump also is covered with germs, while the handle of the squeegee used to wash your windows is yet another.

What to do: You may want to keep latex-like gloves in the car and use them whenever you fill up. Or you can use a pencil to punch the key pad and use a paper towel to hold the gas pump handle and squeegee.

Vending machines can dispense germs
Here is another place that takes your money and dispenses germs. One source of contamination is the key pad or selection buttons, while another may be your choice of vended food. Coffee or other beverages that are dispensed into an open cup are possible sources of germs on the rim of the beverage holder. Even if you get a can of soda, is the top of the can clean? Probably not.

What to do: Avoid vending machines that dispense beverages into open cups. If you buy a canned item, don’t drink out of the can: pour the beverage into a clean cup. Or better yet, bring your own water or other beverage from home in an environmentally friendly container.

Daily Mail Reporter
Your Health TV program (in Russian)

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons