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January 13, 2022

ATMs 'as dirty as' public toilets: U.K. study

Pop quiz, hot shot.

You’re at an airport. You’ve got to use both the public washroom and the nearby ATM, and you can wash your hands after using just one. The goal: stay clean and bacteria-free. Which do you choose? Which do you choose?!

Okay, that’s one of the more convoluted scenarios since they had Laurence Fishburne appear on all three CSI  series’ a few years ago. Still, the smart money says the ATM is much cleaner than the public toilet, right? Well, not so fast.

According to a new, gross study, cash machines are “just as dirty” as public lavatories.

Such findings come from an experiment in London, England, where scientists took swabs from numeric keypads across the city, then compared them with similar samples lifted from the town’s toilet seats.

The swabs were left to grow overnight in a lab and compared the next day. The findings? Both contained pseudomonads and bacillus, bacterias known to cause sickness and diarrhoea, giving ATMs the “same level” of contamination as public toilets, by the opinion of Dr. Richard Hastings, a U.K. microbiologist.

Interestingly, yet not surprisingly, about 3,000 Brits were asked months earlier to gauge what public items they thought were clean or not.

Public toilets, of course, were considered the dirtiest and least-trusted in the country, ahead of only public payphones.

ATMs ranked just tenth on the perceived Infect-'o-Meter.

So, while the hypochondriacs among us use their sleeves to open and close bathroom doors – and similarly layer a public toilet seat with enough TP to make a tree hugger weep – perhaps the same level of caution should be taken when withdrawing our cash, too.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...