Germs: Things designed to help with cleanliness may be full of them

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Updated: 5/16/2012 9:48 am Published: 5/15/2012 9:36 pm

Many people target the usual suspects when it comes to cleanliness in their home. 

"The bathroom, especially the toilet, the sink with food and mold and the garage," said Tulsa resident Elizabeth Cameron. 

However, it is the unusual suspects that micro-biologists say you should start thinking about.

Places like the washer and dryer, kitchen sink, sponges, dishwashers, showers, and even toothbrushes.

Dr. Richard Glass is a professor of Forensics and Pathology at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences; he says the formula for germ growth is fairly simple. "Germs can thrive any place that it is moist or has a food source."

Other bacteria could be lurking in other areas in the home like the washing machine and the dryer. Surprisingly enough Dr. Glass said mold can be found in some dryers, "even though it gets up to hot temperature because of the moisture that's in the lint, mold can grow."

The biggest culprit may come from something you use once, probably twice a day. The toothbrush is a large carrier because there is bacteria present in the mouth. 

In addition, depending on where it is stored in the restroom it could be exposed to fecal bacteria. "If you don't close the lid on the toilet, everything that goes down will up up and it covers everything," said Dr. Glass, "including your toothbrush." Microbiologist say staph or the herpes virus and can be found on toothbrushes.

The ultimate question is; Will the presence of the organisms make you sick? Biologists say the short answer to that is, maybe.

Dr. Glass says bacteria alone is not enough to make you ill because, "that's not the way germs work." A trifecta must come into play in order for you to become sick. 

Dr. Glass explained bacteria must be present, but it must also find a way to enter your body, for instance a cut or a sore. You must also be susceptible to it such as having a compromised immune system. 

Dr. Glass used e-coli as an analogy and said sometimes one hundred people will eat at a buffet but only ten will become ill. He explained what people are susceptible to varies from person to person.

Your best line of defense to battling bacteria comes down to being vigilant about cleaning. Elizabeth is right on track, "I use bleach or I'll use Ajax."

Biologists say using bleach to clean the inside of your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer can help kill germs. 

Dr. Glass said that toothbrushes should be replaced every two weeks to avoid the spread of germs. Another important element is to keep your hands clean. Hands transfer bacteria and viruses to the nose, mouth and eyes.

The CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds using soap and water.

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