Are public hand sanitizer dispensers clean?

By Shannon Royster - bio|e-mail

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA)- In order to keep our hands clean, throughout the day we touch and grab many things in public places other people have had their hands on. For added protection you might turn to hand sanitizer. But how many other people are making the same decision?

I stopped by the Bio Analytical Labs, run by Ginger Briggs, and picked up a few sterile saltwater swabs to check for bacteria.

First I touched the soap dispenser in an office restroom, then the sink handle to wash my hands. I dried off, touched the bathroom door, then I grabbed a bottle of hand sanitizer off a co-workers desk and used it. Next I swabbed everything I touched. I also swabbed my hand for Ginger to test.

She found bacteria on everything I swabbed especially my hand after I touched the sanitizer bottle and used it. "There's some bacteria," says Ginger Briggs. "And actually there's a fungus or two growing in there."

Gross right? And people I talked to didn't like the results.

"It makes me feel like dirty," says Nikki Collins. " A little leery about what you wipe your hands with," says Tim Falcon.

"Keep in mind that our bodies naturally have micro-organisms growing on them. Most are very beneficial they help to prevent disease. But these particular bacteria I can't tell you exactly what it is, and it being from a public restroom you don't know if its from sewage or someone that was sick, says Briggs.

So, what do you do to make sure your hands are clean after you use a public bathroom if lots of bacteria could be found on the bottle of hand sanitizer? Experts suggest you carry your own. That's exactly what Quida Sarent does.

"It's just a little bottle of hand sanitizer, and I use it when I can't go to a bathroom to wash my hands when I go into a public place," says Sarent.

But just in case you don't walk around with hand sanitizer, we decided to check one of those sanitizer dispensers you see in public places. I touched one, sanitized, then swabbed my hand.

We found some bacteria, but not nearly as much as when I grabbed the sanitizer bottle. Yet Collins says she never wants to touch any kind of sanitizer used by the public again.

"I rather have the one that you stick your hand under the hand sensor than the one you press," says Collins.

However if you have to press, Briggs says use caution. Don't put your entire hand on it. Just use your finger, and never grab a public sanitizer bottle. Press from the top.

"Just keep in mind where you are especially in a public situation that not everyone is doing or practicing the same thing as you are, says Briggs."

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