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The 6 Dirtiest Places in Airplanes and Airports

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It seems almost inevitable that when you fly on an airplane, you get sick shortly thereafter. Most blame the germs circulating in the air, but the cause might actually be the surfaces you're touching. To find out how dirty planes and airports are, Travelmath, an online trip calculator, performed an informal study, sending a microbiologist to swab areas at five airports and on four flights performed by two major carriers.

The scientist collected 26 samples, which were stored in sterile broth and sent to a lab to determine just how many illness-causing bacteria were present per square inch, measured in colony-forming units (CFUs). As Mashable reports, “Tests were performed on different items at each airport and on each plane, and then ranked by the median of the results."

According to Travelmath, the results showed that the surfaces in planes and airports are dirtier than some surfaces and objects in your home—and the dirtiest place of all is the tray table:

1. Tray table: 2155 CFU/sq. in.
2. Drinking fountain buttons: 1240 CFU/sq. in. (airport)
3. Overhead air vent: 285 CFU/sq. in.
4. Lavatory flush button: 265 CFU/sq. in.
5. Seatbelt buckle: 230 CFU/sq. in.
6. Bathroom stall locks: 70 CFU/sq. in. (airport)

Surprisingly, bathrooms were actually cleaner than many other places, probably because they’re regularly swabbed down. This might also be why no samples tested positive for E. Coli, a fecal coliform.

It's important to keep in mind that, though the results are interesting, this isn't a peer-reviewed study appearing in a scientific journal. It's not clear exactly what bacteria Travelmath was testing for, and, as Mashable points out, "the presence of bacteria does not necessarily mean that those exposed to it will get sick." Still, it can't hurt to take the commonsense approach to traveling that Travelmath recommends: Throw out any food that touches the tray, and make sure to carry hand sanitizer.

Here's a handy infographic that breaks all of Travelmath's findings down:

[h/t Mashable]

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Why You Might Not Want to Order Tea or Coffee On Your Next Flight
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A cup of tea or coffee at 40,000 feet may sound like a great way to give yourself an extra energy boost during a tiring trip, but it might be healthier to nap away your fatigue—or at least wait until hitting ground to indulge in a caffeine fix. Because, in addition to being tepid and watery, plane brew could be teeming with germs and other harmful life forms, according to Business Insider.

Multiple studies and investigations have taken a closer look at airplane tap water, and the results aren’t pretty—or appetizing. In 2002, The Wall Street Journal conducted a study that looked at water samples taken from 14 different flights from 10 different airlines. Reporters discovered “a long list of microscopic life you don’t want to drink, from Salmonella and Staphylococcus to tiny insect eggs," they wrote.

And they added, "Worse, contamination was the rule, not the exception: Almost all of the bacteria levels were tens, sometimes hundreds, of times above U.S. government limits."

A 2004 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that water supplies on 15 percent of 327 national and international commercial aircrafts were contaminated to varying degrees [PDF]. This all led up to the 2011 Aircraft Drinking Water Rule, an EPA initiative to make airlines clean up. But in 2013, an NBC investigation found that at least one out of every 10 commercial U.S. airplanes still had issues with water contamination.

Find out how airplane water gets so gross, and why turning water into coffee or tea isn’t enough to kill residual germs by watching Business Insider’s video below.

[h/t Business Insider]

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Why You Should Never Flush Dental Floss Down the Toilet
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Dental floss may be good for our teeth, but it’s bad for our sewer systems—which is why you should never flush the stringy product down the toilet.

Home toilets are designed with our convenience and hygiene in mind, but some people have taken to using them as de facto trash cans, flushing wet wipes, paper towels, feminine products, and other items. While gone from your bathroom in the blink of an eye, these waste products don’t just disappear into some magical abyss: They end up mucking up our pipes and pumps, causing problems at wastewater treatment plants and, in some extreme cases, merging with congealed oils, grease, fat, and waste to form noxious blobs called fatbergs.

Meanwhile, some wastewater treatment plant employees claim to have discovered everything from baseballs to cash to underwear—indicating that people are flushing far more than just household and sanitary products.

Compared to the objects above, dental floss—which is made from thin strands of nylon or Teflon—seems like it should be the least of any sewage worker’s concerns. And as you ready for bed, it’s probably far easier to toss your floss into the toilet than to remember to regularly empty the tiny trash can under your sink.

But since dental floss isn’t biodegradable, it doesn’t dissolve in its watery grave. Instead, it can combine with clumps of hair, toilet paper, wipes, sanitary products, and other gross stuff to form large clumps that clog sewers and pumps, sanitary companies told HuffPost. These blobs can also combine with tree roots and grease, cause sewage spills, and harm the motors in septic systems.

These instances aren't just inconvenient, they're also costly, as they result "in the need for local agencies that own and operate sewer systems to spend more money on maintenance to keep the sewers and pumps clear,” a spokesperson for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County told HuffPost.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t floss regularly, but from here on out, the only things you should be flushing down the toilet are human waste and toilet paper.

For a clear idea of what other kinds of things shouldn’t be going down our drains, check out the video below, which was created by the City of Spokane Department of Wastewater Management and shared in partnership with the Water Environment Federation.

[h/t The Huffington Post]

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