That plastic bin for your keys, wallet, and laptop can be home to a lot of germs and viruses, according to a new study
By Katrina Caruso
Are you planning to board a plane in the near future? You might want to take a few minutes to wash your hands after clearing the security checkpoint, according to study results published recently in the journal BioMed Central Infectious Diseases, especially with the flu season upon us.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham in England and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland found that half of the plastic bins they checked in the airport security area were home to bacteria and viruses that can cause respiratory infections. By contrast, the airport toilets were one of the cleanest areas: of all the samples taken from various surfaces in washrooms, including the flush buttons and the locks inside the stalls, none showed any sign of contamination (possibly because the washrooms are cleaned frequently—although the researchers were careful to time their sampling so that surfaces had not been cleaned since the last peak flow of passengers.)
The study involved taking air samples and swabs from frequently touched surfaces at the airport in Helsinki during the 2015–2016 flu season. Surfaces included the touch screens at check-in, elevator buttons, toys in the children’s playground, and stair handrails. The toys carried the most contamination, followed by the security bins and the payment terminal buttons at the pharmacy.
The viruses found in the swabs included rhinovirus, coronavirus, adenovirus, and influenza A.
Given that virtually every passenger handles a security bin, the results are perhaps not surprising. A key part of staying healthy while travelling through airports is clearly washing your hands thoroughly after you’ve cleared security—and in case you can’t do that right away, it might be a good idea to carry some antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer.