Surprising Bacterial Hideouts

While perpetually dousing your hands in alcohol sanitizer or washing obsessively with antibacterial suds may be excessive (experts warn the hygienic craze may be backfiring on our health), there are some things you’d be right to avoid. Check out these 3 surprising hangouts for microbial menaces.

  • Cigarettes: As if the carcinogenic toxins weren’t enough to quit puffing away, studies show that cigarettes harbor as many germs as harmful chemicals — so once and for all, kick the habit.
  • Shower heads: A recent study found 1 in 5 shower heads laced with Mycobacterium avium, which causes pulmonary illness. Replace shower heads regularly if they show signs of grime (cleaning may not be effective, as this strand is resistant to bleach) and consider investing in an all–metal head, which is less hospitable toward bacteria than plastic varieties.
  • Vacuum cleaner: Half of all vacuums researched in a University of Arizona study tested positive for fecal bacteria. But since the average device exhausts unfiltered particles back into your home, much of what you sucked up recirculates into the air. Bacteria range in size from 50 microns to .3 microns, so invest in a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration system, which can retain particles as small as .3 microns, or a ULPA (ultra-low penetration air), which can snag particles as small as .12 microns. Clean canisters with ammonia–based or alcohol–based disinfectants once a month.

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