Hold on to your lunches and get ready for some nauseating news — a study that looked at germ counts in communal office break rooms found that the popular sites of co-worker lunch hours are actually filthier than the average toilet seat.
The research was conducted by Kimberly-Clark Corporation, a company that manufactures cleaning and disinfectant products, and consulted on by University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba, according to Health Day News.
Researchers collected more than 5,000 swabs from office break rooms and their findings will make your skin crawl: 75 percent of break room faucets, 48 percent of microwave handles, 26 percent of refrigerator handles, 23 percent of water fountain buttons and 21 percent of vending machine buttons have "high degree of contamination." That makes the break room the dirtiest hot spot that workers touch all day.
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The study didn't specify on the what types of germs were found in break rooms, but in Gerba's earlier work studying office desk tops, he found germs like diarrhea-causing norovirus, parainfluenza, and drug-resistant staph (MRSA).
"The two things you spread in a break room are office gossip and germs," Gerba said.
How do these germs keep finding their way into the break room? Through common, everyday occurrences that you probably don't think twice about, like using a dirty sponge to wipe out your coffee cup.
"You’re really wiping your mug with E. coli," Gerba said.
Another way office employees spread germs is by greeting each other, a common activity when bumping into one another in the break room.
"You’d be better off kissing each other than shaking hands," Gerba said, noting that our palms are loaded with germs that can make us sick.
But before you cause a workplace scandal by going around and kissing your coworkers, try washing your hands and using hand sanitizer often, first.