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. Rafael says:

    Our society is becoming so overprotective that it’s backfiring.Our tolerance to normal things like germs, virus, bacteria, etc. is diminishing. Our future generations will have to live inside plastic bubbles. We’re so paranoid….

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  2. Joe says:

    What’s so special about ATMs? I would guess they’re exactly as bacteria-infested as EVERYTHING ELSE A LOT OF PEOPLE TOUCH with their “filthy” mitts. Which, as #15 nicely points out, aren’t actually making us all that sick.

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  3. I wonder says:

    I wonder if they get cleaned every day (like toilets, but not like those notoriously filthy doorknobs). It seems like wiping the keypad with Windex-type cleaner would be a pretty standard maintenance task: add cash, remove checks, re-fill deposit envelopes (if used by that machine), wipe everything down.

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  4. Anthony says:

    Toilet seats are dry and therefore harbor barely any bacteria. Toilet seats have around 300 bacteria per square inch. Dry areas of your skin have about 13000 bacteria per square inch, your armpits have about 500,000 bacteria per square inch.

    The toilet bowl being moist has around 3 million bacteria per square inch.

    Antibacterial surfaces are a scam as the bacteria easily adapt over time (but arent a threat in the first place). Mostly what makes us sick are viruses anyway not bacteria.

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  5. Joel says:

    Yes, as #13 commented, what most people consider clean and dirty is really much more interesting and relevant. I would like to see wht kind of silly study this was, it would be more effective if the link to the “new study” was a link to the study, instead of another article about it. This study would do well as part of a larger study of the level of triviality required to propagate news reporting chains.

    “Within the body of a healthy adult, microbial cells are estimated to outnumber human cells by a factor of ten to one.”
    -Human Microbiome Project

    Our bodies are always crawling with microbes. Our fingers might be briefly getting cleaner when using the pin pads.

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  6. Philippe says:

    The fact is germs are everywhere. Previously we weren’t able to measure this precisely so this is nothing new. Anything that is touched by a lot of people is bound to be full of bacteria. Keyboards in internet cafes, ATMs, PIN keypads for credit cards at shops, public transportation knobs and handles. The list is endless.

    The key is to realize this and wash your hands before handling food or touching your face and you’ll be fine.

    Also #13 raises a very valid point. Since you can’t really see bacteria (not until it forms a very very big colony), people rely on their instincts and learned patterns to know what’s dirty and what’s not. Toilets are identified by most people as being dirty while they might actually be very clean because they are often disinfected. On the other hand it is common place to wash one’s kitchen with a sponge to remove visible stains and scraps while at the time spreading bacteria that has developed in the wet sponge.

    I’ve seen many bars and restaurants where waiters would “clean” tables with a funny-smelling wet rag that probably made things much worse.

    The #1 thing that could improve the situation is a easy way to measure bacteria levels for the layperson. Some CSI-like magic light wand that would make bacteria reflect purple light for example. Until then, all that we can do is wash our hands.

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  7. Philippe says:

    also #15 is dead on. Modern soap and disinfection makes a very big difference in hospitals and daycare centers, but I’d like to see medical results before embarking on a disinfect-everything crusade.

    I’m willing to bet that contamination in public transportation comes mostly from the air (people coughing and stuff). Surface to hand to mouth/skin would likely be a distant second.

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  8. cassiel says:

    This is a “study” by a manufacturer of antibacterial coatings. I doubt it has been peer-reviewed.

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