What’s More Hazardous at a Gas Station Than The Bathroom?

What’s More Hazardous at a Gas Station Than The Bathroom?

What’s More Hazardous at a Gas Station Than The Bathroom?

For those of us who often hit the road, we’ve all been in that familiar scenario where nature calls and we have to pull into a gas station, run inside, grab the bathroom key, brace ourselves, hold our breath and dart inside hoping to get in and out as soon as possible out of concern for the germs we assume are lurking inside. If you’ve ever had a similar experience, I have some “good news” for you. Turns out the bathroom is hardly the dirtiest thing you encounter at the gas station. But only because recent research has tagged the gas pumps themselves as being at the top of the list of the unhealthiest things you can handle outside the home. Feel better now? I recently stumbled across a Kimberly-Clark study investigating germ “hot spots” and was somewhat surprised to learn that handles on gas pumps have an average of 2,011,970 viable bacteria cells (or “CFU”s) per square inch. The buttons on the pumps (where you select the grade of gas) are even worse housing an average of 2,617,067 CFUs per square inch. By comparison, a toilet seat has a relatively miniscule 172 CFUs per square inch, while money, long-considered to be quite dirty since it changes hands so often, has only 5.2 CFUs per square inch. In other words, that gas pump handle is about 11,000 times more contaminated than the gas station toilet seat (and the gas pump button 15,000 times more contaminated). And it’s not just the number of germs on the pump, but the type of germs that are present. According to University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba (nicknamed “Dr. Germ”), 71 percent of the pumps studied were highly contaminated with germs associated with disease, including bacteria of the gram-positive cocci variety, that can cause pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome and problematic skin infections and bacilli, another type of harmful bacteria linked infections in newborn baby, along with food poisoning. When considered in connection with the chemical contamination of pump handles from the gasoline fumes themselves, these stats give a whole new meaning to the phrase “pain at the pump.” I guess these results should come as no great surprise when you consider how many different people touch gas pumps every single day. But the scope of the contamination is something I would think most people do not typically ponder or appreciate. I certainly didn’t, and I am on the road quite a bit. But if you’re reading this, please consider stocking your car with hand sanitizer to clean your hands after filling up. You can also use a paper towel to hold the handle and push the button, or wait to hit the restroom until after you filled up.