Investigation: Bathroom Bacteria

By Sunni Blevins bio | email
Posted by Shawn Maclauchlan

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's a question you might fear - what's the dirtiest place in a bathroom? Is it the toilet seat… the door knob… or maybe the faucets on the sink?

We investigated, and the results might surprise you.

We picked up 15 swabs from San Air Technologies in Powhatan.  We are going to test five spots in three bathrooms: one here at NBC 12, a public restroom at a local gas station, and the bathroom in my very own home.

First up - the stall door opener in a ladies restroom at NBC 12.

For each of our test surfaces, we followed instructions carefully - swabbing each area and then protecting the sample in a test tube.

We labeled each so the lab would know what, where and when it was tested.

Next, armed with samples, a pen, and our smaller camera, my photographer headed into a local gas station men's room to test five surfaces out.

Here's where things are going to get really scary - we are about to test my very own bathroom.  I want you to know that I did not do a special cleaning knowing we were doing this story because I wanted it to be a true test.

We started with the toilet seat.

We were careful, of course, each time to catalog our scientific experiment. When we were done, we took the samples back to the lab.

It took 10 days for our samples to incubate in Powhatan county at San Air Technologies. Here's what they found out.

Turns out...

These folks found a bacteria called Bacillus on the door going "out" in the NBC 12 ladies room.

It's the basic component in food poisoning, but it shouldn't make you sick as long as you're a good hand-washer.

A little scarier, Staphylococcus - which you know as staph infection - was found on the stall door we tested.

But again, hand-washing should keep us safe.

In the men's gas station restroom, several bacteria were found including staff infection and something known as Acinetobacter, which could lead to pneumonia in severe cases.

That was on the door going "out" when you would expect and hope people had washed their hands.

At my house, no bacteria…

But fungi known as Aspergillus and Penicillium on the faucet - both of which could lead to respiratory issues.

But scientists say it wasn't a surprise considering fungi need moisture to grow - they can be brought in through ventilation or on your clothes and shoes.

So where's the dirtiest place???

The lab found Staphylococcus on the stall door openers in both the NBC 12 ladies restroom and gas station men's room.

It's the most likely bacteria to lead to infections like MRSA and therefore the dirtiest.

In my bathroom, the dirtiest and only place any fungi was found was on the faucet on the sink.

Lab experts say they were ultimately not alarmed by any of our test results.

They say all of these bacteria and fungi are common to find on frequently handled surfaces.

They would have been concerned if they found something more serious - like E-Coli.

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