Those Bins in the Airport Security Line Are Germ-Infested Cesspools

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iStock

Here’s something to add to your list of travel concerns: Those plastic bins that send your phone, shoes, and wallet through airport X-rays are teeming with potentially health-threatening germs, according to a new study spotted by Sky News.

Finnish and British researchers swabbed trays at the Helsinki Airport and discovered that half of the samples were contaminated with rhinovirus or adenovirus—two categories of common viruses that can trigger cold-like symptoms. In addition, they also took samples of various airport surfaces, and 10 percent of those tested positive for viruses. However, plastic security bins reportedly pose the greatest health threat.

Researchers suggested that hand sanitizer be offered at the end of the security line to help reduce the risk of infection. “To our knowledge, security trays are not routinely disinfected,” they wrote in their study, published in the journal BioMed Central Infectious Diseases. “Although this would not eliminate all viruses on hands, (e.g. alcohol gels have been found to be less effective than hand-washing for rhinovirus), it is effective for many viruses, including influenza.”

While this discovery may seem alarming, it must be noted that the sample size for this study—eight bins, plus swabs from 12 other surfaces around the airport—was small. The samples were also taken three times during Finland's "peak period of seasonal influenza" from 2015 to 2016, and different airports with different degrees of cleanliness could potentially yield different results.

It doesn’t hurt to play it safe and bring your own hand sanitizer along for the journey, though. The tray tables on airplanes are also known to be incredibly dirty—despite the fact that travelers eat off them—so you may want to make room in your carry-on for sanitizing wipes, too.

[h/t Sky News]

Visit Any National Park for Free on September 28—or Volunteer to Help Maintain Them

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Nick Hanauer/iStock via Getty Images

By the end of September—which always seems especially busy, even if you’re not a student anymore—you might be ready for a small break from the hustle and bustle. On Saturday, September 28, you can bask in the tranquility of any national park for free, as part of National Public Lands Day.

According to the National Park Service, the holiday has been held on the fourth Saturday of every September since 1994, and it’s also the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort. It’s up to you whether you’d like to partake in the service side or simply go for a stroll, but there is an added incentive to volunteer: You’ll get a one-day park pass that you can use for free park entry on a different day. Opportunities for volunteering include trail restoration, invasive plant removal, park cleanups, and more; you can see the details and filter by park, state, and/or type of event here.

If you’re not sure how you should celebrate National Public Lands Day, the National Park Service has created a handy flowchart to help you choose the best course of action for you—which might be as simple as sharing your favorite outdoor activity on social media with the hashtag #NPLD.

National public lands day celebration flowchart
National Park Service

There are more than 400 areas run by the National Park Service across the U.S., and many of them aren’t parks in the traditional sense of the word; the Statue of Liberty, Alcatraz Island, and countless other monuments and historical sites are also run by the NPS. Wondering if there might be one closer than you thought? Explore parks in your area on this interactive map.

For those of you who can’t take advantage of the free admission on September 28, the National Park Service will also waive all entrance fees for Veteran’s Day on November 11.

And, if you’re wishing a free-admission day existed for museums, you’re in luck—more than 1500 museums will be free to visit on Museum Day, which happens to be this Saturday.

General Mills Is Recalling More Than 600,000 Pounds of Gold Medal Flour Over E. Coli Risk

jirkaejc/iStock via Getty Images
jirkaejc/iStock via Getty Images

The FDA recently shared news of a 2019 product recall that could impact home bakers. As CNN reports, General Mills is voluntarily recalling 600,000 pounds of its Gold Medal Unbleached All-Purpose Flour due to a possible E. coli contamination.

The decision to pull the flour from shelves was made after a routine test of the 5-pound bags. According to a company statement, "the potential presence of E. coli O26" was found in the sample, and even though no illnesses have been connected to Gold Medal flour, General Mills is recalling it to be safe.

Escherichia coli O26 is a dangerous strain of the E. coli bacterium that's often spread through commercially processed foods. Symptoms include abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Most patients recover within a week, but in people with vulnerable immune systems like young children and seniors, the complications can be deadly.

To avoid the potentially contaminated batch, look for Gold Medal flour bags with a "better if used by" date of September 6, 2020 and the package UPC 016000 196100. All other products sold under the Gold Medal label are safe to consume.

Whether or not the flour in your pantry is affected, the recall is a good reminder that consuming raw flour can be just as harmful as eating raw eggs. So when you're baking cookies, resist having a taste until after they come out of the oven—or indulge in one of the many edible cookie dough products on the market instead.

[h/t CNN]

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