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Science

Workstations 'Dirtier Than Toilets' 568

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the crumbs-are-a-vital-source-of-nutrition dept.
hettb writes "How often do you clean your keyboard and surrounding work area? A recent study (also discussed here) found that computer workstations harbour 400 times more health threatening bacteria than the average toilet seat. If you're anything like me, spending most of both professional and personal time in front of your computer, this is sobering news. "
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Workstations 'Dirtier Than Toilets'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:45PM (#3511752)
    Deal? ;)
    • People are way too germophobic these days. Face it: Bacteria are everywhere. You can't avoid them. Just live with it.
    • Surprise! Your mouth is even dirtier than your keyboard probably, and demonstratably dirtier than the mouth of a dog or cat.

      BUT, there is a large difference between the microorganisms occupying your skin and computer and those that MIGHT be in your toilet (or on it).

      i.e. Giardia, E. Coli, Clostridia, Salmonella, Shigella are all GI tract infectious and will make you really sick (as a bonus it only takes about five shigella to infect a person), but your skin houses things like Proprionobacterium acnes which won't make you sick but will make your acne worse.

      Skin also houses some staphylococcus species but they usually won't cause trouble unless the get inside you in some way.

      HTH,
      Keith

      P.S. I knew studying for medical boards would come in handy someday!
  • Clean everything (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ChocoboKnight (549139) <mario.doria@noSpAm.gmail.com> on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:45PM (#3511754)
    Every 6 months I disassemble my machine. Everything that can be washed on the kitchen sink is washed there; everything else is dusted and/or cleaned with q-tips and alcohol. A bit overkill but the keyboard keys never get stuck.
  • A new anti-porn bill is working its way through congress...
  • by dohcvtec (461026) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:46PM (#3511757)
    Man, if workstations are that dirty, imagine how dirty PCs must be.
  • cooool (Score:3, Insightful)

    by remou (146100) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:46PM (#3511764) Homepage
    I believe in constant exposure to bacteria
    viruses and the like. Keeps your body tough
    and your immune system strong...

    all that antibacterial soap shit gonna
    kill you one day...

    not really kidding in case you are wondering
    • all that antibacterial soap shit gonna kill you one day...

      not really kidding in case you are wondering


      If only I hadn't spent my mod points earlier today, I'd give you another +1. For the curious, check out The Coming Plague [amazon.com]. It's a good read and explains fairly well in layman's terms where we're going wrong, and what the consequences are.
    • Makes sense to me. AFAIK, there are no known resistant strains of bacteria, but it's probably not impossible to be resistant, and sooner or later we're going to create an environment where such resistant bacteria will thrive. I don't want to be near that environment :-).

      Of course, who knows how nasty the 'antibacterial' agent is to you, either. I don't.

      -Billy (who DOES support the use of soap -- odd, perhaps I'm hypocritical or simply a luddite)
    • I couldn't agree more. I keep telling my finace to quit buying that antibacterial soap. If doctors hadn't over-perscribed antibiotics for the last 20+ years, we probably wouldn't have stuff out there that can resist them (Flesh eacting Disease/bacteria/virus - whatever it is). The human body is an amazing machine, by making it work more, you actually make it stronger. Consider that the next time you take a pill for a minor discomfort.
      • Re:cooool (Score:2, Informative)

        by joshsisk (161347)
        My Bio 1001 professor told me that ALL soap is antibacterialogical. The use of the term in bold type on the packaging is just marketing. It acts no different than regular soap - there are no "antibiotics" in them, as we commonly use the term.

        I have no clue if he was right, but I always figured he knew more about the topic than me...
      • Re:cooool (Score:5, Informative)

        by inburito (89603) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:35PM (#3512187)
        Antibacterial != Antibiotic

        Bacteria can get resistant to antibiotics put there'll always be something antibacterial that'll kill it..

        Consider a soap that's 70% ethanol. Just applying that ethanol over bacteria will kill it. Doctors don't use pure ethanol for disinfecting instruments for nothing.

        Yes, boicott overuse of antibiotics but definetly do not hesitate to use other means of antibacterial products. Overprotecting your living enviroment is bad because it leads to poor immune system but being rational with this never hurts..

        Oh, try taking a small dose of arsenic every day and watch your health detoriate over time.. Everything doesn't make you stronger. That's how they got Napoleon, anyway.
        • Re:cooool (Score:4, Informative)

          by andkaha (79865) on Monday May 13, 2002 @04:02PM (#3512366) Homepage

          Overuse of anti-bacterial products is strongly linked to increased over-sensitivity and allergy to dust, pollen and animals etc.

          Live in an anti-bacterial environment for a few years and you'll find that you can't spend much time outside anymore, due to the pollen, car exhausts and parfume/aftershave.

          Since people started to move into cities, got higher standards of living, and a much cleaner living area, the number of cases of over-sensitivity to all these things (animals etc.) has rocketed sky high.

          I'm not sure it has anything to do with the immune system, as pollen or animal hair or aftershave are not viruses or bacteria.

        • Immune system (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) on Monday May 13, 2002 @04:14PM (#3512490) Homepage
          If you have a strong immune system, these bacteria aren't going to affect you. (*)

          If you have a weak immune system, you are very likely to get sick no matter what - quite possibly very sick - with or without using "anti-bacterial" products - unless you isolate yourself in a bubble, like people with Severe Combined ImmunoDeficiency (SCID, a.k.a. bubble boy syndrome) have to.

          (*) Same applies to many viruses. Some people in experiments had live cold virus put up their nose! Some of the people did not get sick. Why? Because their immune system was strong.

          Not letting your immune system even fight normal battles makes it both ineffective - leading to more infections, not less, and overreactive - leading to more allergies, asthma and even auto-immune diseases (such as Lupus and MS).

    • Well . I suppose that really depends on EXACTLY how much of it you eat.

      I don't know about you . but 'watermelon blast' anti-bacterial hand satatizer(tm) smells good enough to eat ..

      you just have to have a BIG glass of water handy.
      [nothing like cleaning the pipes]
    • Re:cooool (Score:2, Funny)

      by cmdr_beeftaco (562067)
      Not only does it keep you immune system strong, ingested bacteria is an important source of protein in the office worker's diet. Consider it an employer sponsored daily all-you-can-eat bacteria buffet.
    • Thank you. I couldn't agree more. I am a farily clean person, I shower once a day, use soap and shampoo. I brush my teeth, and sometimes if I've been working outside or on my car I even wash my hands before I eat, but I am not a zealot when it comes to keeping my life completely bacteria free. I have asthma, was a smoker, and have never really excercised much, and I still get sick way less than anyone I know who is worried about bacteria. I usually get pretty sick with a cold/flu funk about once a year, and the sniffles in the summer. I haven't had a fever in 15 or so years and the last time I puked (aside from binge drinking or the occasional robitussin/DXM trip) was when I was 10.

      The funny thing is that people that I know who use paper towels to open restroom doors, or use ass gaskets on a perfectly dry toilet seat seem to me to be always sick. These are the ones who have that antibacterial evaporating hand rub crap in their desks and who constantly worry about bacteria, they are always sick. I've told them my theories about how killing all of the bacteria makes your immune system weaker, and how trying to sterilize your life just makes you more vunerable to colds and the flu, but they just blame me for being dirty and making them sick, so I just sneeze at them and walk away.

      I recently when to Ghana in Africa, and because of some problems I went for a week without any malaria medication or without my yellow fever immunization. The only health problem I had was a little travellers diareah when I got back and nothing was going to stop that. IMHO the only thing that this huge antibacterial craze is helping is the companys that make the REALLY expensive products that clean you, and the bacteria itself, because it is getting stronger.
  • SMACK! (Score:2, Funny)

    by beet0l (567009)
    my computer just gave me the clap!
  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:48PM (#3511783) Journal
    Exposure to bacteria is normal. We did not evolve with bleach and lavatories. Our bodies expect to encounter bacteria and to some expect we have to to keep out immune systems primed.

    Why get paranoid about bacteria that naturally crawls over pretty much everything in our environment. Have you got ill off your keyboard? No, I didn't think so.

    • I dunno, but the doctor told me it's bad for my health to eat the keys from the keyboard.
    • Especially since all this bacteria on your workstation is probably your own -- as in, continuous with the bacteria that you already carry around with you. So big deal.

      Now, that might point to an interesting distinction between "personal" computers and shared workstations, although I'll bet that personal computers are way dirtier, just by virtue of the fact that it's personal. On the other hand, those machines in university labs are probably pretty scungy.
    • Have you got ill off your keyboard?
      no, but my keyboard got ill on me. I spilled my coffe cup on it one hour ago. The thing is utterly wasted (big cup, hot coffee).
      Well, that's the way true keyboard must depart! So long buddy. You really had your way, especially when you add those little annoying useless letters at really bad times, but I kinda liked you.
      I can't say I really like this new generation keyboard I reaplaced you with. Too much hype! wireless is good for changing channels with xawdecode, but is worth nothing in strafe jumping!
      I really miss you...

      on an unrelated note, this fufme site looks down...
    • Exactly. That's why you have an immune system.

      And that's why it's a good idea to eat in nasty, unsanitary, hole-in-the-wall restaurants occasionally so you can keep your immune system in a good state of practice.
    • Actually, underexposure to bacteria is BAD for you... current medical studies indicate that a large percentage of allergies come from not having your immune system stimulated as a child. Coupled with the fact that many "illnesses" confer a degree of immunity after initial exposure, and I'm quite happy to keep my keyboard, crumbs and all.
      • Unfortunatly, like everythink else, there are a million footnotes to the study such that it is useless for practical purposes.

        Examples: My dad grew up on a farm, and remembers when they finially got indoor plumbing and didn't have to use the outhouse. (which was right next to the well) He cannot mow the lawn without wearing a resperator.

        My cousins have asthma, blamed on the carpet in their basement.

        The above aside, I generally agree with the results, that is if you don't get enough exposure to illness, your system gets weak. However there is a lot more than exposure to wellness.

    • The space-bar and ENTER key agree with you, the Caps Lock is taking offense and the rest of the keys don't see your point.
    • by VRisaMetaphor (87720) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:12PM (#3512007)
      Exactly! And I don't know about you, but the fact that my immune system is capable of handling environments 400 times filthier than the average toilet seat makes me feel pretty damn studly. Now excuse me while I clean the john with my tongue.
    • "Have you got ill off your keyboard?" only if I type [I][L][L]. Does that count?
    • by Ivan the Terrible (115742) <vladimir.acm@org> on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:20PM (#3512077) Homepage
      It's actually even worse than just getting things out of proportion since using germicidal wipes doesn't kill all the bacteria.

      The bacteria that do survive are resistant to the germicide and have an ample food supply (all their competitors were killed off). If any of these newly evolved resistant bacteria are harmful to humans, we now have a problem.

      Hospitals are increasingly fighting infections by bacteria that are resistant to all known drugs. The major cause seems to be antibacterial supplements in chicken and cattle feed.

      So next time you wipe down that counter with Clorox-guaranteed-to-kill-99.9%-of-all-germs, think about how happy the remaining 0.1% of those buggers are going to be, and remember, they do know how to multiply.


      • I have to agree with (parts of) this post.

        I have a strain of bacteria living along the outside edge of my bathroom sink that are resistant to everything I've thrown at them. I've gone so far as straight bleach and scrubbing with a toothbrush, and then rinsing the area thoroughly. "That'll get 'em this time," I always say. But sure enough, later that day, I see the thin familiar orange line of ogranic matter lining the edge of the sink.

        I've just learned to live with them now. The tiny crevice they occupy hasn't gotten any larger in the last year that I've abstained from purposely attempting to obliterate them and so long as they don't mutate into a cockroach or Adam Sandler, they're fine with me.
    • In fact, these bacteria usually do us good. An example is on our hands, where antibacterial soap is a health hazard. The reason is that the "good bacteria", (ie the non harmful stuff) actually competes for food (mmm, sweat) with the harmful bacteria, making it hard for harmful bacteria to grow in numbers.

      The action of antibacterial soap kills all bacteria, leaving an equal playing field. Not so good.

  • gattaca (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arivanov (12034) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:48PM (#3511785) Homepage
    For some reason I have that scene from gattaca in front of my eyes. Where the main character is vacuum cleaning his keyboard at the end of the training day. The interesting bit is that noone is really bothered or amused by this... It seems a bit overboard, but still within reasonable limits...
  • by _LORAX_ (4790) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:48PM (#3511787) Homepage
    Is it just me or is all of this really quite moot. Between what we are exposed to outside naturally or what we subject ourselves to daily what is on our workstation is hardly going to really make a difference one way or another.

    Lets see some things that are probalw worse.

    1) Any food/drink ordered from think geek
    2) Coke
    3) Paint fumes/dust and metal dust from people Modding their case.
    4) Sitting in from of this damm irradating device for 12hrs/day
    5) ..
    6) ...
    203331) some extra bactera on your desk
    • by Jerf (17166) on Monday May 13, 2002 @04:11PM (#3512461) Journal
      Speaking as an American, I assure you that we are not overly obsessed with microbes. We do put a higher premium on cleanliness and lower levels of BO then some other cultures, but that's basically a cultural thing to do with our noses, not our microbes.

      What we do have is the world's most advanced Advertising System. Remember the definition of marketing: "Create demand". Most of what you see as microbe obsession is actually our advertising industry, trying its darndest to create an obsession with microbes.

      By and large, they only succeed right where it probably does the most damage, with some parents of small children, which is of course a lot of people, but hardly the whole country. Most of the rest of us do not consider it a terribly big deal, up to and including the small children. ;-)

      If all you watch is our advertising, you get a pretty skewed idea of our country, because what you really see is what Corporate America wants it to be. That does not always correspond to reality, and I dare say here's one place it has largely failed. We're not obsessive about microbes on a macro scale.

      Note: I'd be surprised if there's a lot of bacteria in Coke. First, I'm sure the water's sterilized, probably distilled, same for the rest of the ingredients. This is a *good thing*, necessary for any product like Coke. (Consider pasteurization.) Second, that's one nasty environment for bacteria to grow in; I know some forms of mold can manage (don't ask), but it takes a lot of time... radiation hazards are usually seriously overstated (again for essentially marketing reasons; the people most worried about radiation are the ones least able to understand it, and so there are people capatalizing on this). Paint fumes and metal dust are probably underrated.
  • by Insightfill (554828) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:48PM (#3511791) Homepage
    Think of it - cleaner environment - no more wasted trips, the possibilities...
    • We have the answer! [2y.net]

      This is the complete integrated toilet office solution.

      Scientific research has shown this working environment to be a whopping 400 TIMES healthier than most computer desks!

      Similar products could cost you $500 or more. We are offering you this incredible invention at the measly cost of four payments of $19.95.

      Order Now, don't delay!

  • So? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Xenopax (238094) <xenopaxNO@SPAMcesmail.net> on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:49PM (#3511796) Journal
    I doubt many people catch that many diseases from toilets. I know it's common for people to become paranoid about using a public toilet for health reasons, but it's absurd. Just don't sit in anything wet or lick your hands afterwards and you'll be fine. That goes for using both a computer and a toilet.
    • Re:So? (Score:5, Funny)

      by AntiNorm (155641) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:54PM (#3511869)
      Just don't sit in anything wet or lick your hands afterwards and you'll be fine. That goes for using both a computer and a toilet.

      If you're sitting in something wet at your workstation, it's time to lay off the pr0n sites.
  • Sobering? (Score:3, Funny)

    by swordboy (472941) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:49PM (#3511800) Journal
    If you're anything like me, spending most of both professional and personal time in front of your computer, this is sobering news.

    Not if you are growing brewers yeast in the keyboard like me! I call the subsequent beer, Windows 99 [macobserver.com].
  • Well DUH! (Score:2, Funny)

    by fobbman (131816)
    Have you seen some of the "crap" that comes preloaded on store-bought PC's these days? And most of it isn't worth a "piss" anyway.

  • by keep_it_simple_stupi (562690) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:50PM (#3511817) Homepage
    I am a sys admin for a large company. I see people in the restroom all the time that don't wash their hands... Normally this wouldn't bother me, but then I think of how I'll be at that same users pc in 20 minutes. It makes me want to wear latex gloves like the doctor's office uses.
    • Me too ... I've always been in the habit of washing my hands after working on someone's pc. A lot of people's keyboards feel greasy or sticky, which is mildly disgusting. I always though I was a little weird with all the hand washing, but this article proves me right! Sweet vindication!
  • by svferris (519966) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:50PM (#3511819)
  • by rot26 (240034) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:51PM (#3511822) Homepage Journal
    The study, funded by The Clorox Co.

    Hmmm. Imagine that. A company that makes cleaning/germicidal products finds that a common workplace/home device is direly in need of disinfecting. I wonder if we'll be seeing Clorox Key-Wipes any time in the very very very near future?
    • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:19PM (#3512067)
      Well that's the interesting thing. They didn't "find that a common workplace/home device is direly in need of disinfecting". They found that it had lots of bacteria. Our non-thinking consumers will rush out to buy disinfectant products because they presume it's a problem. If they want to show anything at all meaningful, they need to correlate bacterial concentration on the keyboard with illnesses. I don't care if my keyboard has bacteria on it, I care if it has bacteria on it that can actually cause me problems.
  • Getting Personal! (Score:4, Informative)

    by 4of12 (97621) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:51PM (#3511829) Homepage Journal

    At school I remember some old ADM keyboards that had slippery keys, with much blackness just aside from the contact points. Shudder!

    Those were public terminals, though.

    I've noticed that keyboard cleanliness really depends on the person. Not whether they dump coffee and cheetos on them, but whether their hands are particularly heavy sources of oil.

  • Thank god! (Score:4, Funny)

    by soulsteal (104635) <soulsteal@3l33ERDOS7.org minus math_god> on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:52PM (#3511838) Homepage
    I was browsing Slashdot, fighting the urge to lick my desk, when I saw this article. Good thing too....
  • Oh my god (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:52PM (#3511843)
    I am so happy to know that. I can't believe that for years I've been touching a dirty computer and then touching my clean penis. I could be transferring germs from my computer to my penis without even knowing it.
  • I always thought I was just doing it because I needed to goof off that last half hour of the week but I guess I wasn't goofing off after all!

    The absolute worst offender has to be phones though. If your phone gets used by anyone but you, you're well advised to disinfect the mouthpiece, especially during the cold/flu season.
  • by rcatarella (239076) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:53PM (#3511854)
    Who could have guessed what the conclusions would have been?

    Let's see- after using our new "Desk Wipes" product for just two days you too can rid your desk of 99.9% of those nasty microbes.

    Hmmm.....
  • I know my kbd is cleaner than my toilet, cause I clean it more often!
  • A toilet seat is clean compared to some stuff some of us have to go through every day of their lives..

    Un-Hygienic Data on the London Underground

    During Autumn of 2000, a team of scientists at the Department of Forensics at University College London removed a row of passenger seats from a Central Line tube carriage for analysis into cleanliness. Despite London Underground's claim that the interior of their trains are cleaned on a regular basis, the scientists made some alarming discoveries:

    This is what was found on the surface of the seats:

    * 4 types of hair sample (human, mouse, rat, dog)
    * 7 types of insect (mostly fleas, mostly alive)
    * vomit originating from at least 9 separate people
    * human urine originating from at least 4 separate people
    * human excrement
    * rodent excrement
    * human semen

    When the seats were taken apart, they found:

    * the remains of 6 mice
    * the remains of 2 large rats
    * 1 previously unheard of fungus

    It is estimated that by holding one of the armrests, you are transferring to your body the natural oils and sweat from as many as 400 different people. It is estimated that it is generally healthier to smoke five cigarettes a day than to travel for one hour a day on the London Underground. It is far more hygienic to wipe your hand on the inside of a recently flushed toilet bowl before eating, than to wipe your hand on a London Underground seat before eating. It is estimated that within London, more work sick-days are taken because of bugs picked up whilst traveling on the London Underground than for any other reason (including alcohol).
  • by JHromadka (88188) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:54PM (#3511867) Homepage
    I completely believe this. I have a coworker that has a 3 year-old cup of coffee that he keeps on his desk. It's mighty furry. He jokes that it will cure cancer one day. :)
  • Alcohol wipes (the kind you would find in a hospital) do wonders for cleaning up a keyboard and mouse. I'm sure that in most cases, it's the keyboard and mouse that harbor most of the grime.

    I've used some campus computing sites where there is a brown slimy coating on everything. Probably a result of human oils produced during the many all-nighters around exam time.

  • by Lethyos (408045) on Monday May 13, 2002 @02:56PM (#3511881) Journal
    How much time do you spend on or at the toilet on any given day? 5-10 minutes tops? Some people take a really long time in the rest room, but it still does not even begin to stack up against the amount of time we spend at our computers.

    Human beings are inherently dirty creatures. We can go through the whole day, doing almost no physical activity, and all the while, we're pumping out grease and perspiration. Meanwhile, we're going around touching door handles, money, and all sorts of other unsanitary surfaces. We then proceed to touch our keyboards and mice with these filthy hands. On top of that, many of us eat at our workstations, providing an ongoing food supply to whatever may be living on our input devices.

    Now, think about the toilet. We spend very little time there. We never touch the seat. When we urinate, we're dispending a liquid that contains amonia and is actually steril. When we deficate, we're not very likely to get the contents on any surface except inside the bowl, where it is promply removed by about 5 liters per second of water.

    Again, it comes as no surprise that computers are just outright dirty. :)
  • Looking into the ol' Happy Hacking Lite, I see a couple years' worth of dust kitties and random pieces of lint. Even if it were on top of the keys were I might actually touch it, and not well-hidden beneath the keys themselves, this would not disgust me.

    On the other hand, no matter how yummy the burrito was, I'll be damned if I'd leave a single drop of its corpse sitting on the seat of my toilet. I mean, really, how often do you leave *ahem* "dirt particles" where they land? Roughly never, particularly if 1) you ever have or intend to have a female over to visit or 2) ever expect to use that particular toilet again.

    So, tell me again why I should be surpised?
  • One of the things that everyone seems to miss when people make this kind of comparison is that toilet seats are actually remarkably clean. They're engineered to be a very bad place for bacteria to grow, and people routinely clean them with strong antiseptic solutions. In fact, a typical toilet seat has fewer bacteria than a typical kitchen counter. Your toilet seat may very well be the cleanest place in your house.

  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:00PM (#3511918) Homepage
    from now on, onsite pc support should put on disposable latex gloves before typing or touching the mouse. For a real gas, put on surgical garb and scrub up before opening the case.

  • by szcx (81006) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:00PM (#3511919)
    The study, funded by The Clorox Co
    Oh, well if Clorox says my keyboard is dirtier than a toilet, I guess I better do something about it. Excuse me while I go buy some Clorox Air Freshener to get rid of the air-bourne bacteria, Clorox Disinfectant Wipes for my keyboard, and Clorox General Purpose Cleaner to wash the microwave door with...
  • I clean my "workstation" (I usually call it a "computer" but whatever) when either 1) keys don't come up again when pressed or 2) the trackball no longer rotates.

    Other than that, I let the ol' immune system take care of it.

  • Just now I looked at my keyboard, and found a small hair between the Z and X keys.

    I plucked it out, and thought it was pretty weird. I have shoulder length hair, and here i find a short and curley, rough textured looking hair about 1 or 2 inches long.

    I need to get out more.

  • As more people become semi-educated in science in our society, people are shifting their traditional taboos to equally superstitious, but scientifically inspired ones. Dirt and bacteria is a prime example of this. Previous generations believed that certain types of animals, places, and people were inherently dirty. Usually these were things that did not fit into the culture's prevailing worldview. Dirt was "things out of place." Now, people are starting to get away from that sort of thinking, but instead are latching onto bits of misunderstood science. Bacteria is a good example. People sit in their high school biology classes and learn all about little "germs" that live all over everything, just waiting to make you sick. This is reinforced by television commercials for anti-bacterial dish soap and aerosol disinfectants. In fact, such ambient bacteria are really only dangerous to those with severely weakened immune systems. For healthy people, this bacteria is harmless and potentially helpful since the immune system is strengthened by regularly fighting off this kind of bacteria. Still, culture is a powerful thing. Think about how you would feel eating a french fry you had dropped on the edge of a toilet seat. According to this study, it's cleaner than your desk, but most people still wouldn't eat it.
  • The Slashdot version notwithstanding, I saw nothing in either article indicating that the study identified health-threatening bacteria. Just plain bacteria. The study is funded by Clorox. Think there's an agenda?

  • Gotta love the media's constant portrayal of "bacteria" as something to be feared and destroyed at all costs. Bacteria are the basis from which all life (based on the cell theory definition) on Earth evolved. Not only that, but without them, we could not exist. Bacteria fix nitrogen to the roots of the plants we eat (or the plants which our cattle and pigs and chicken eat); bacteria (specifically, cyanobacteria, not "algae" and not "plants") created the oxygen-rich atmosphere billions of years ago and continue to contribute to it. Bacteria line our intestines and create vitamin K, which the body is unable to produce. Bacteria teem over every square inch of our bodies and can thrive in the most extreme of conditions. Any efforts to senselessly control or kill them will always be met with stronger resistance. Bacteria have been effectively "communicating" by swapping DNA plasmids for billions of years; collectively they form what could be seen as a neural network with far more evolutionary power than the entire human race. Making them out to be the enemy only creates a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Yes, there are quite a few nasty bacteria out there, but the world is for the most part an equilibrium where these few strains are kept in check by the sheer volume of other harmless or beneficial bacteria.

    I say, the more, the merrier! Did you know that salmonella used to die at freezing temperatures, until scientists attempts to create a concoction of various strains of bacteria with which to innoculate chickens? The salmonella evolved and resisted so well that it thrives better than ever before. Let that be a lesson to the fools out there who want to kill every "bacteria" in their presence.

  • I figure my cigarette ashes kill all the germs when they accidently fall in my keyboard
  • Man, and I thought that white powdery substance in my keyboard was sugar!
  • Any of you noticed (on yourself or other information workers) a kind of scaley infection on the elbows. I've noticed on quite a few IT people and myself. It's this weird calous type thingie but ends up cracking and hurting after a while. I suspect it's either a type of fungus (like athlete's foot) or a bacteria that roughs up the skin (mild flesh eater maybe?). No idea, but I'm convinced it's related to body oils and human contamination.

    Anyway, I've been cleaning regularly with bleach and have found that the problem goes away.

    FYI
  • Another commonly hanled object also carries around a lot of bacteria.

    Cold Hard Cash! Yup, it's a fact. That's why many places require food service staff to wear platic gloves if they also handle cash.

    It's a lost cause to try to avoid bacteria completely and, as the other posts here point out, you don't really need nor should you want to.

    P.S. - I know guy who are plumbers who will stick their bare hands into stuff you don't even want to know about. After a good gon of hand cleaner they'll go and grab a sandwich. A few of them are almost as old as dirt too.

  • by stinkfoot (21610) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:12PM (#3512009) Homepage
    The study, funded by The Clorox Co...

    needless to say, it's in their best interest to jack up bacteria paranoia levels whenever possible.

    nowhere does it say that the bacteria levels on the desktop are unhealthy, just higher.

  • Warts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DodgyGeezer (83311) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:12PM (#3512010)
    I'd never really seen anybody with warts until my first job. A company of under 30 people had at least 5 people with several warts on their hands. I had 12 warts on both hands with 2-3 years of starting at that place. I've always blamed the keyboards and mice for spreading the virus.
  • How the heck do you clean your average keyboard?

    Take all the keycaps off and put them in soapy water?

    If so, it's no wonder nobody does it.
  • no more licking my mouse when i spill soup on it. what a waste of soup.
  • I read an article (I wish I had a link to it) where they studied the cleanliness of many things in the house, and it turns out that the toilet seat is one of the cleanest things in the house. It's so smooth that it's hard for anything to stick to it. The Average cutting board has orders of magnitude more bacteria than a toilet seat...
  • Most of the bacteria in the oil and sweat on your fingertips are perfectly benign; other people are covered in bacteria, but they are not septic. You can touch them. Even if they are all sweaty....

    The bacteria in someone's other excretions - especially saliva, feces and the delightful sexual juices - are potentially infectious. Blood is more likely to contain viruses (since blood borne bacteria generally kill you stone dead). Unless the other person has a staph infection on their fingertips, the bacteria on their keyboard are not. Even the infectious stuff in snot, which often ends up on people's fingertips, is also (usually) viral and, in any case, generally killed by being dried out.

    The fact is - most of the organisms that remain infectious after being dried out live in your scat.

    Whatever the bacteria count on a desk, I'd recommend eating off of one over eating off a toilet, which is likely to harbor some small number of bacteria (or other parasites) that favor the human digestive tract.

    This is not to say that staph infections are not a real problem; especially in hospitals, which (generally) do use disinfectant soap. I am saying that alarm over the bacteria on your desk is premature.

    Researchers also separated office workers into two groups: one group used disinfectant wipes to clean their desks, phones and computers; the other group did not.

    Reee-lly! What an interesting project. I wonder who funded it? I have some other observations about people who clean their desks with sanitizing wipes, but I'll leave the psychoanalysis to the professionals.

    Dr. Gerba has also done work on how anti-bacterial kitchen supplies reduce of risk for disease [state.ok.us] (html courtesy of google [216.239.37.100].) Search the document for "Gerba".

    Hell, take a look at his press coverage overall. [google.com]
  • by selectspec (74651) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:25PM (#3512108)
    The same could be said about most system admins too.
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:27PM (#3512126) Journal
    Sure the bacteria isn't all coming from that big smelly hairy guy in the next cube who has the Princess Amidala screensaver?
  • Ugh (Score:3, Funny)

    by Andrewkov (140579) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:36PM (#3512191)
    This is why I use a Keyboard Condom [psi3164.com].
  • clorox (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MSG (12810) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:37PM (#3512199)
    While many readers poo-poo the study because it was funded by Clorox, I wonder who else they expect to conduct such studies? Clorox makes cleaning products... it makes sense for them to find out what things need cleaning, no?

    I wouldn't expect the average person to go around collecting samples from all of the surfaces in their house to grow in dishes and find problematic places.

    The results don't surprise me at all. Anyone who's taken a high-school level biology course has probably done exactly that in class and found that commonly handled items have lots of bacteria. I believe door knobs and phones were the worst surfaces tested by my class. (which reminds me of a particular chapter of the hitchhikers guide...)
  • Everything (Score:3, Funny)

    by mrroot (543673) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:46PM (#3512249)
    Sheesh, it seems like everything is dirtier than toilets nowadays...

    Your kitchen cutting board [www.rnw.nl] has 200 times more fecal matter than the average toilet seat. Thats why I've started preparing all my meals in the bathroom, using the toilet seat for a cutting board instead (hey, its 200 times cleaner, right?)

    Well, this article has convinced me. I'm going to dip my telephone in the toilet once a week for a good cleaning. No more germs for me.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:47PM (#3512255) Homepage
    And they found germs? Oh, what a surprise. And I'll bet that if a computer industry association funded a study, they'd find that keyboards are perfectly healthy.

    Unlike the Slashdot lead in, they did NOT say the bacteria were "health threatening." They did not say the "germs" were dangerous. They didn't say they had shown that they caused disease. They did not say they POTENTIALLY could cause disease. They did not say that the people using the antimicrobial wipes obtained any health benefits (fewer sicks days, etc).

    All they said was, there were bacteria on your keyboard. Big deal. There are bacteria in cheese, in yogurt, in sauerkraut, in your own mouth right now, in your own gut right now, etc. There are not just bacteria but MITES in your eyelids.

    Yes, it's true that colds in particular are spread more by hand contact than by droplets in the air. I'd bet that you are at far more risk when you shake hands then when you use someone else's keyboard.
  • Paranoid..... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jsimon12 (207119) <tzzhc4NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:53PM (#3512305) Homepage
    This seems more like an advertisment to sell disinfectant wipes. Assuming you wash your hands before you eat and aren't licking your keyboard you have little to worry about. There are bacteria everywhere, it is NORMAL for them to be EVERYWHERE, if anything trying to kill all the bacteria in your envionment might be detrimental.. If you start swabbing and culturing everything you will jsut end up OCD and living in a bubble. I mean hell, ever seen what grows when you swab money?
  • by gdyas (240438) on Monday May 13, 2002 @04:01PM (#3512360) Homepage

    Dear God! Our poor little babies being babysat by the computers are catching bacterial infections from our filthy, filthy electronics!

    Support the Child Online Cleanliness Act (COCA) to mandate child-safe bacterial filters on all library computers!

    Stop the scourge of scurvy being brought home by your children using the same computer as some scuzzy homeless person!

    Lord knows I always keep a box of handy-wipes by the computer for, um, cleanliness' sake.

  • by sheetsda (230887) <doug.sheetsNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday May 13, 2002 @04:08PM (#3512424)
    From the article: The average office desk harbors 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat, according to a new University of Arizona study.

    From the slashdot article: computer workstations harbour 400 times more health threatening bacteria

    Note that the article makes no mention that the bacteria they found were a health threat. News flash! There are ten times as many bacterial cells in your intestines as human cells in your whole body. Not all bacteria are a health hazard, in fact many species are quite helpful in digestion and competing against disease causing bacteria for food and residence. Your entire skin is crawling with the little buggers. I've never heard of computers being a significant reservoir of any type of disease causing agent, but any microbiologists out there feel free to enlighten me.
  • by Captain Large Face (559804) on Monday May 13, 2002 @05:10PM (#3512861) Homepage

    I guess it won't be that long until these bacteria start making those utterly pointless "first post" posts to Slashdot. Hell, they're probably already more mentally developed that most of those lamers..

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