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Germs Flush ‘em out

Citizen Staff Writer

Peeing in the shower can be a good thing – as long as your drain works, you don’t have some disgusting urinary infection and no one is in the shower with you.

It helps saves the environment by flushing with water you are using anyway, it can help kick athlete’s foot and, according to the highly scientific Glamour magazine, urine is sterile and nontoxic.

In these germ-o-phobic days of swine flu where surgical masks are often designated outerwear, it’s only fair to clean up some germy myths.

Like public restroom toilet seats give you gads of diseases. Quite frankly, they are one of the cleanest parts of the restroom, at home and in public.

“There are no butt-borne diseases,” said Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist, garbologist and well-known “germ guru” who has studied such stuff for several decades.

“People are scared of toilets,” he said, which is one of the reasons they are so germ-free. Folks clean the crap out of them.

“There is more fecal bacteria in the kitchen sink than there is in most toilets,” Gerba added. “That’s why dogs drink out of the toilets.”

This just proves dogs can sense certain things, such as ghosts, upcoming storms and fecal bacteria.

Gerba also admits there may be some credence to the belief that dog saliva is fairly clean, but he’ll still shirk from getting a wet one on the face by a well-meaning canine.

“I don’t like being licked by any animal that uses its tongue as toilet paper,” he confessed.

The most germ-infested item in a hospital may also surprise you. It’s not the bathroom door, the toilet bowl handle or the call buttons.

It’s the television remote control.

“In the home, too, it’s at the top of the list,” he said. “Everybody with the flu jumps into the bed with the TV remote.”

Other germs thrive in the soft fibers of the carpet.

“Carpeting builds up a lot of bugs,” he said. “We started working with UV lights and were surprised how much E. coli is in there.”

The original thought was it would be too dry for such stuff to thrive, but Gerba said food festering between fibers might be doing the trick to entice bacteria.

“It’s like a Happy Meal for them.”

I shudder to imagine the banquet going on in my vintage 1970s orange shag rugs.


But even carpeting and the TV remote cannot compete with the germiest thing in the home – the kitchen sponge.

“Every time you wipe it around, you’re giving bacteria free ride,” he said.

Replace the sponge once a week, throw it in the washing machine or nuke it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.

Other places that could use some washing are found at the workplace.

Like that nozzle in the office water cooler. Gerba didn’t bring this one up, but Assistant City Editor Mark Evans reminds us often.

He stands in the break room while folks fill up their water bottles and asks them, “Do you know how many germs are on that thing?”

He then steps forward to fill up his own megatumbler.

Telephones, desktops, keyboards and the poor old computer mouse are the germiest things in the office, Gerba said.

That, and the first floor elevator button. It’s good Tucson doesn’t have many buildings that stretch above one floor.

While I hate to admit this, Gerba also said women’s desktops are much germier than men’s.

No, men aren’t necessarily neater, he said, but women have certain habits.

“Seventy percent of women store food in their desk,” he said. Again, it’s an E. coli playground. At least I am proud to say there’s no food in my desk.

The mice that prowl around the office went and ate it all.

As long as they followed the dogs’ lead and washed it down with toilet water, I guess it’s OK.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who intends to to steam-clean her vintage carpet.

Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM.

Listen to her webcast at 4 p.m. Fridays at www.party934.com.

E-mail: rynski@tucsoncitrizen.com

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