Is Your ATM a Bacterial Bomb?

Might want to carry your Purell to the ATM from now on. A new study finds that the numeric keypads on London ATMs are as bacteria-contaminated as the seats of public restrooms. “We were interested in comparing the levels of bacterial contamination between heavily-used ATM machines and public lavatories,” said Dr. Richard Hastings, who spearheaded the experiment. “We were surprised by our results because the ATM machines were shown to be heavily contaminated with bacteria; to the same level as nearby public lavatories. In addition the bacteria we detected on ATMs were similar to those from the toilet, which are well known as causes of common human illnesses.” (HT: Collin Campbell) [%comments]

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  1. Alex M says:

    Is the bacteria count any different from paper or coin money?

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  2. James V says:

    Considering many illnesses are transmitted hand-to-mouth, I’d imagine the savings in lost sick days could be substantial if the keypad could be kept sanitary. Perhaps it wouldn’t be too hard for an ATM to have a built-in disinfectant spray which can give the keypad a periodic spritz when it’s unoccupied?

    I think the equivalent of a two or three dollar economy can of spray disinfectant would be a great price to pay to help prevent colds/flus/GI illnesses.

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  3. Shane says:

    I use ATMs regularly and haven’t been sick in years, haven’t even had a cold in about two years. So it makes me think that touching things that crawl with germs may not be that big of a deal?

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  4. Put a lid on them. says:

    What sort of deposits have people been making in the ATMs anyway?

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  5. Nosybear says:

    Love the comparison; however, I’ve read the seats of public restrooms have fewer bacteria than your kitchen countertop and cutting board. Sorry, can’t find link right now. Cheers!

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  6. Jonathan Bagley says:

    I agree with #3. That we came into contact with so many bacteria without coming to much harm surely shows there isn’t a problem.

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  7. Nylund says:

    I thought past tests showed that public toilet seats were surprisingly clean. If that is true, then that means ATM’s aren’t terribly dirty either. I’d wager that neither are all that much worse than any other public surface, be it a handrail, doorknob, or whatever.

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  8. Eric M. Jones says:

    Mythbusters did a show where they compared toilet seats to other things and the toilet seats came off well.

    …But I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with geometric logic, that DOORKNOBS are the real disease culprits….

    It turns out that little bugs’ slimey little bodies can’t grow on anything that is electrically conductive.* So brass, copper, bronze, iron, and silver (e.g.) are quickly disease-free after touching. Stainless steel and aluminum have nonconductive oxides that allow growth. Of course, these are attractive architectural metals and are used everywhere.

    Your best bet: Wash your hands, and don’t touch your nose or especially your eyes with bare hands.

    *That’s why you can’t get normally sick swimming in the ocean.

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