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Can You Say, "GROSS!"

by Melissa Brunner

I'm not much of a germ-o-phob, but a PR pitch from Prevention magazine that landed in my inbox today caught my attention. Their upcoming issue looks at the eight germiest public places around and provided a preview. Some of them - like the doctor's office - make sense. Others make you think! The article says we touch an average of 30 objects in a minute. We obviously can't avoid all of them, so here a few to consider:

Lemon wedges on your restaurant drinks. Prevention reports a 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health found nearly 70 percent of those fruity additions harbored disease-causing microbes, including E. coli and other fecal bacteria. I'll take my iced tea minus the bacteria, please!

Speaking of restaurants, how about those menus? How many times have you seen messy fingerprints or streaks of who-knows-what on a page or two? Yes, hundreds of people might handle those culinary guides and odds are no one is washing them or spritzing them with sanitizer. Prevention recommends you never let a menu touch your plate or silverware, and wash your hands after you place your order.

As you wash your hands, consider whether you're getting what you think you are! Prevention puts public restroom soap dispensers on their list because a recent study found about 25 percent of them are contaminated with fecal bacteria. The study found most of these containers aren't cleaned, so soap scum builds up, creating a breeding-ground for bacteria, fed by the dirty hands that constantly use them. Prevention suggests you scrub hands your 15 to 20 seconds with plenty of hot water and finish it off with a dose of your own alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

You can check out the rest of the gross-out list at www.prevention.com. Now, excuse me as I break out the hand sanitizer!

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