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Is the toilet seat really the dirtiest place in the

By Charlotte Pritchard BBC News

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In today's Magazine
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A violent land between Caucasus and Caspian
The toilet seat has acquired an unfair reputation as the dirtiest item in the average household. But
scientists say there are far filthier places in our house, some of them where we least expect.
Would you chop your vegetables on your toilet seat? I think pretty much all of us would say No.
But maybe we should think again.
Dr Chuck Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, studies how diseases
are transferred through the environment. This involves swabbing household items and measuring
how many bacteria - and what sort - develop.
He particularly looks for faecal bacteria such as E.coli and staphylococcus aureus.
His studies have found that on the average toilet seat there are 50 bacteria per square inch.
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A new benchmark
The toilet seat is now regularly used as a unit of dirt.
"Now hear this! Your cellphone is as dirty as a toilet seat," writes the New York Post.
"Which? found that the keyboards at its London offices contained up to five times more germs
than a toilet seat," reports the Daily Mail.
"Keyboards can carry more than 200 times as many bacteria as a toilet seat," says USA Today.
"It's one of the cleanest things you'll run across in terms of micro-organisms," he says. "It's our
gold standard - there are not many things cleaner than a toilet seat when it comes to germs."
We should be more worried about other household items, it seems.
"Usually there are about 200 times more faecal bacteria on the average cutting board than on a
toilet seat," he says.
In the kitchen it doesn't necessarily get there through actual contact with faeces. It comes via raw
meat products or the viscera from inside of the animal, where a lot of the faecal bacteria

Would Gerba be more inclined to chop his vegetables on a toilet seat then?
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"It would seem a safer place," he says. "Not that I would recommend it, but you might treat your
cutting board a bit more like you do your toilet seat."
It's because we all fear the dirtiness of the toilet seat so much that we regularly clean it, so
perhaps this is the course of action we need to take with our chopping boards.
But the filthiest culprit in our homes is the kitchen sponge or cloth.
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Short for Escherichia coli - type of bacterium present in gut of humans and other animals
E.coli infection happens when mutant strains are introduced to body, usually through
119 people were infected during E.coli outbreak in Northern Ireland last month; 14
people died in Germany in 2011 after outbreak caused by cucumbers
BBC Health: E.coli infections
Q&A: E.coli outbreak
According to Gerba, there are about 10 million bacteria per square inch on a sponge, and a
million on a dishcloth.
In other words, a kitchen sponge is 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat, and a dishcloth is
20,000 times dirtier.
This is the same the world over.
"Always the dirtiest thing by far is the kitchen sponge," says John Oxford, professor of virology
at the University of London and chair of the Hygiene Council - an international body that
compares hygiene standards across the world.
Its latest study examines samples from homes in nine different countries, and finds that 21% of
"visibly clean" kitchen cloths actually have high levels of contamination. The cloths also fail the
bacterial test which looks for E.coli.
The study identifies faecal bacteria in other places around the home, and this varies from one
country to another.
Saudi Arabia has the dirtiest fridges, with 95% of the fridges in the study failing the bacteriology
test for E.coli. And in South Africa, the dirtiest item is the seal in the bath, with almost two-
thirds with unsatisfactory levels of E.coli and 40% for mould.
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Household hygiene
2010 Hygiene in the Home Study tested 180 homes in Australia, Canada, Germany,
India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, UK and US
Bathroom seals caused most concern, with 70% failing bacterial tests
Fridge interiors came second - more than 40% of homes failed tests on bacteria and
mould build-up
Kitchen towels were found to be unsatisfactory or unacceptably dirty in 36% of homes
Cleanest surface tested was pushchair with only 6% failing bacterial tests
"It's always a bit delicate which countries are the worst," says Oxford.
"We found that countries like Australia and particularly Canada are high up on the hygiene list...
Countries near the bottom are fairly routinely, unfortunately, India and Malaysia."
What about away from our homes? Gerba says the office is particularly bad.
"Many people don't realise they're talking dirty every time they pick up their phone, because they
never clean it. "The average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than on a toilet seat."
Beware the supermarket too.

"Shopping trolleys are really bad," warns Gerba. What's more, about half of reusable shopping
bags have faecal bacteria in them.
"Some people have more faecal bacteria in their grocery bag than in their underwear, because
they at least wash that."
So what does this actually mean for us in terms of health risks?
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Previously in the Magazine

Faecal matter can be found on just over a quarter of our hands, new research suggests. In some
cases the quantity of germs is equivalent to the number in a dirty toilet bowl. So why are the
British so bad at washing their hands?
Why are the British so bad at handwashing?
"These numbers of bacteria, particularly for E.coli, are huge," says Oxford.
"E.coli is an indicator bacterium. It may not itself cause horrible disease, but it indicates faeces is
around and that might contain other organisms like salmonella and shigella which really are
virulently pathogenic."
But we all touch these perhaps startlingly dirty things every day, and on the whole we don't get
constantly ill.
"We're jolly lucky that as we've evolved over two million years, we have a whole set of genes
whose only function is to get the immune system in action," says Oxford.
"All of us, in all these countries we have gone to, rely on Lady Luck too much, keeping our
fingers crossed or sitting on our hands. In a modern scientific society, what we want is people to
realise there's a problem here and take action."
Disclaimer: Charlotte Pritchard and the BBC do not recommend chopping any sort of food
on your toilet seat 17 November 2012 Last updated at 01:51 GMT

Meja Kerja Vs. Toilet Duduk

Menurut sebuah penelitian, meja kerja kita adalah benda paling banyak mengandung kuman
kedua dari semua peralatan di rumah kita. Dan yang paling bersih adalah pemukaan toilet duduk.

Hasil penelitian itu bisa dipertanggungjawabkan, mengingat reputasi Dr. Gerba. Bahkan dia
mendapat julukan Dr. Kuman karena selama 30 tahun lebih telah mengeluarkan berbagai karya
tulis dan hasil penelitian yang tidak lepas dari kuman dan obat anti kuman. Bahkananaknya ia
beri nama tengah Escherichia, kepanjangan huruf E dari bakteri yang terkenal E Coli. Ia
juga pernah berprestasi membantu NASA sekaligus Stasiun Angkasa MIR milik rusia dalam
mengatasi masalah sistem pengolahan air.
Dr. Charles Gerba, seorang ahli mikrobiologi dari Universitas Arizona memimpin sebuah tim
peneliti. Proyek mereka adalah meneliti jumlah kuman yang ada pada 15 peralatan/ perabot yang
ada di kantor. Mulai dari meja kerja, gagang telepon, gagang pintu, keyboard komputer hingga
permukaan toilet duduk di WC. Penelitian itu memberikan hasil yang cukup mengejutkan,
ternyata meja kerja rata-rata mengandung 10.000.000 bakteri / kuman. Atau kalau dibandingkan
tiap 1 inchi persegi, meja kerja 400 kali lebih kotor dibandingkan dengan permukaan toilet
For the study, Gerba and his team separated office workers into two groups. One group used
disinfecting wipes to clean their desks, phones and computers; the other did not. Within two
days, the wipes users were found to have a 99.9 percent reduction in bacteria levels.
The study team evaluated a variety of office locations, environments and surfaces. Study sites
included private offices, cubicles and common work areas in offices located in New York, San
Francisco, Tucson and Tampa. A total of 7,000 samples were collected nationwide and analyzed
at the University of Arizona laboratories.
Dr. Gerba juga menemukan bahwa di dalam rumah, spons dapur memiliki jumlah kuman paling
banyak, diikuti oleh bak cuci pring. Jumlah bakteri paling rendah dari 15 lokasi di rumah,
ditemukan di toilet. Ia mengatakan (mungkin bercanda),Jika alien muncul dari luar angkasa dan
meneliti jumlah bakteri, ia mungkin akan menyimpulkan ia seharusnya mencuci tangan di toilet
Anda dan buang air besar di bak cuci piring.
Bahkan ia sempat mengeluarkan pernyataan dengan nada bercanda:
Seandainya ada alien yang berkunjung ke rumah dan menggunakan peralatan yang bisa
membaca kandungan kuman, alien tersebut akan menggunakan toilet untu mencuci tangan dan
tempat cuci piring untuk buang air besar.
Ada beberapa teori yang menjadi alasan kenapa permukaan toilet duduk bisa begitu bersih.
Pertama, mungkin karena permukaan toilet yang kering sehingga tidak mendukung kehidupan
kuman dalam jumlah besar. Kedua, karena penggunaan disinfektan yang rutin dilakukan untuk
membersihkan toilet. Dan masih ada teori lain, tetapi yang jelas dari hasil penelitian itu, bukan
berarti kita lebih baik meletakkan makanan di atas toilet dari pada di atas meja. Yang lebih tepat
adalah, jangan lupa membersihkan meja secara rutin dan gunakan cairan pembersih yang aman.
Cara Menyiram Toilet
Penelitian yang dilakukan Dr. Gerba juga menunjukkan tentang kesalahan yang sering dilakukan
saat menyiram toilet. Kebanyakan orang menyiram toilet duduknya dengan kondisi penutupnya
terbuka. Padahal hal tersebut menyebabkan kuman yang ada di toliet berterbangan dan akan tetap
melayang selama berjam-jam. Memang pada akhirnya kuman itu mengendap juga, tetapi tidak
selalu jatuh ke lantai. Bisa saja jatuh ke atas handuk, kulit kuta dan lebih parah lagi ada yang
jatuh ke atas sikat gigi. Bayangkan kalau kamu menyikat gigi dengan sikat gigi yang penuh
kuman. Jadi, cara yang benar adalah menyiram toliet dengan kondisi penutupnya tertutup.
Perlu diingat, penelitian itu dilakukan di Arizona. Jangan dibandingkan dengan di rata-rata
daerah di Indonesia dengan kesadaran kebersihan yang masih di bawah standar. Di negeri kita
juga masih jarang yang menggunakan toilet duduk.