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Office break rooms may harbor many germs

By Andrew Adams | Posted - May 24, 2012 at 11:05 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — A new study sheds light on just how gross break rooms can be. They house all kinds of germs that can make someone in the office sick.

A lot of people thought the office cubicle was the center of the universe for germs. But Kimberly-Clark Corporation performed some 5,000 swabs-worth of research on office break rooms, revealing a different story.

The study said says that 25 percent of fridge door handles are contaminated. Half of microwave door handles are contaminated. Among the worst spots were sinks and faucets. 75 percent of faucets in the research were highly contaminated.

"So your break room tends to be a place where there is a high traffic and a high amount of contamination," said Kelly Arehart, a chemist with the Kimberly Clark Corporation.

The study looked at the amount of ATP found on surfaces, which is a molecule responsible for providing energy to germs and people alike, and is a good indicator of bacterial contamination.

ATP counts in the break room were higher than for any other area, including doors, elevators, and even computer keyboards. In general, your personal office space is usually cleaner than a break room.

"The break room is really the center of germ transfer in the office rather than the individual cubicle," said University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba, who consulted on the study. "Everything is shared in the break room."

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