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Is your work desktop dirtier than the restroom?

November 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Is eating at your desk making you sick? With more than 83 percent of Americans eating at their desks, most don't clean the cubicle top like they do the kitchen counter at home.

One study found desks 400 times germier than a toilet.

"If you eat at your desk and you don't wash your hands, you might as well be eating at the toilet," says Bill Flynn, Everclean Services.

A University of Arizona study found a typical workspace has 400 times more germs than a toilet.

Food safety expert Bill Flynn says with 400 known pathogens, it would not be uncommon that some are on yours. And with 80 percent of us eating at our desks, it's time to clean up our act.

"Generally nobody gives a second thought to the company kitchen or to one's desk as it relates to the spread of bacteria and viruses," says Flynn.

But think about this:

"There's over 60 touch points that the average employee will touch," says Flynn. "Anywhere from a calculator to a phone, but also all the way down to the handle of the freezer, the spigot on the water cooler."

So rather than walk around with wipes, could the Pocket Purifier help? This machine promises to clear up 99.9 percent of the germs that can cause the common cold, the flu, kills E. coli and salmonella.

So we put it to the test.

We first got permission to pop into an unsuspecting office to test various surfaces to see what bacteria numbers we could find.

Here's the scale:

"You're looking for less than 10 micrometers," says Flynn. "If you have more than 29, it's a filthy surface; 11 to 30, not properly cleaned."

Flynn swabbed the office kitchen fridge handle. Using his commercial-grade bioluminescent reader, the handle reads 25 -- or close to filthy.

Then, following manufacturer's guidelines, he used the UV light with the intent of wiping out the germs.

"Lori, what we're looking to do here is to provide an application of the light within a half-inch of the surface for about 10 to 12 seconds," says Flynn.

Flynn then re-tested the handle. It read 10 -- a clean surface.

Flynn repeated the test on office and personal phones. Both read "dirty," and both read "clean" after UV purification.

Used in industry and hospitals for years, the technology, now available to consumers, could help cut the cost of workplace illness.

"They call it community diseases because we're all in it together," says Flynn. "And if we don't all hang together we're going to hang separately."

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