Article courtesy of Forbes via “The Rundown”
Don’t touch that armrest! That was the bad news for airplane travelers today as researchers released results showing that some of the deadliest germs can live for up to a week on airplane seats, tray tables, armrests, and other surfaces.
In fact, think of the germiest surface you can imagine – a toilet flush handle, perhaps? Your airplane armrest is way worse, say Auburn University researchers James Barbaree and Kiril Vaglenov, who presented some stomach-churning research today at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).
With help from engineers, Auburn’s team of microbiologists conducted a pretty straightforward experiment. They asked Delta Airlines for samples of six different materials commonly used on planes, including a plastic tray table, a metal toilet flush, the cloth used in seat pockets, a plastic window shade, a rubber armrest, and seat leather used in upgraded seats.
Then they applied two types of bacteria, E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) to the six surfaces, mimicked the conditions present inside an airline cabin (20 percent humidity, 75-degree temperature), and watched.
MRSA survived for up to 7 days on the the surfaces that surround your plane seat, compared to just four days on the toilet flusher. The more porous the surface, the longer the bacteria lived. To break it down further, MRSA lasted for 7 days on cloth (seat pocket); 6 days on rubber (armrest); 5 days on plastic (tray table and window shade) and 4 on metal.
E. coli bacteria were a little less persistent, surviving for 4 days on the armrest, 3 days on the tray table and window shade, and 2 days on the toilet flusher.
But here’s the kicker: while the plastic surfaces were a little less welcoming to the bacteria, they provided a more efficient mode of transportation. In other words, while MRSA may last just five days on your armrest, it jumps happily from there to your hands.