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Is your handbag cleaner than a toilet?

November 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Before you run to the bathroom to wash your hands, hang on. Microbiologists say once you stick them in your handbag or your pockets, you'll be exposed to disease causing germs all over again. Bacteria hide in places you least suspect.What's in your purse? There is more in your purse than money and makeup, how about the cold and flu viruses, E.coli, salmonella even MRSA?

University of Arizona microbiologist Kelly Reynolds, says women's purses routinely harbor millions of bacteria, and not just on the outside.

"In a woman's purse there are things like your cell phone, your makeup, compact, your pen, that you never think to disinfect," said Reynolds.

You make a point to disinfect this, but probably not this. Thirty-percent of purses test positive for fecal bacteria.

"They have a lot more germs than a toilet seat," said Reynolds.

There is a meter to measure germs.

"So we can swab the surface, put it in the germ meter and get a really quick readout in about 10 seconds of how dirty that environment is," said Reynolds.

Administrative associate Nancy Casady put her purse to the test. Germy place number one, her plastic pillbox.

"That is a four -- a four," said Reynolds.

On a germ meter scale of zero to five, a toilet seat is about a one. A four means literally millions of germs are living on that pillbox.

Number two on the list is your wallet.

"You really do not know where this dollar has been, do you?" asked Reynolds.

Three, four and five on the list: make-up, pen and cell phone.

"Sometimes I can find a million germs on a cell phone -- at typical cell phone," said Reynolds.

There was no MRSA or E.coli in the lab analysis this time.

You can kill them with a simple once a week wipe.

"You want to look for a EPA registration number that means that product's been tested and proven to kill germs," said Reynolds.

Wipe out the germs in your purse and increase your chances of staying healthy.

Women's purses may be bad, but they still don't harbor as many germs as men's wallets. A University of Arizona study found men's wallets had more bacteria growing in them than on any single item in a woman's purse.

Web Extra Information:

AGENTS OF DISEASE:

In our "germophobic" society, the very idea of germs makes some people stop and think about washing their hands. Getting back to the basics, germs are microorganisms that cause illness.

Certain types of bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa fall into this category. Although it's good to be on the lookout for these carriers of bad health, some people suffer from a pathological fear of germs called mysophobia.

It's true, you can't always control your environment or the germs you come in contact with, but a time-tested way to keep yourself safe from dangerous microorganisms is to wash your hands after you've been around them.


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