Secret Health Fears

licking-subway-pole

Credit: Amanda MacMillan

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Amanda Macmillan

The fear: Dirty hands on the subway. One day, while riding a crowded train, my boyfriend tried to brush a piece of hair out of my eyes, and I freaked out that his hands were going from the germy pole to my face. Never mind that I myself was leaning against the same pole and probably hadn’t washed my hands for several hours (nor that I once touched my tongue to a subway pole to win a scavenger hunt). The hand-to-face thing just really bothers me.

Reality check: There’s no doubt that those subway poles are covered with bacteria, and crowded, enclosed spaces are some of the best places for germs to travel. But when University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba tested the New York City subway, he found that there are actually higher levels of bacteria on planes, trains, and buses. And if Amanda is going to be a germaphobe, she should really pay more attention to the germiest places in America.

Next: Kate Stinchfield

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