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Health
The germiest places you're not cleaning
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The germiest places you're not cleaning

The germiest places you're not cleaning

The germiest places you're not cleaning

People avoid touching the obviously dirty things — toilet bowls, garbage cans, anything in a public restroom. But for every well-known nasty, there are a host of under-the-radar threats we put in our mouths, roll around on all night, and regularly rub on our faces. In an effort to keep clean, happy, and healthy, here are 21 surprisingly dirty things and what to do about them.

KITCHEN

Sponges

It's easy for bacteria and food particles to get trapped in the crevasses of sponges, creating ideal conditions for bacteria to breed [1]. Moist, dark — what else could bacteria ask for?!

What to do: Try antibacterial sponges and dish soaps to limit the lesser of bacteria evils — but neither are very effective at controlling the spread of big name baddies like E. Coli and Salmonella [2]. Be extra safe by disinfecting sponges at least once a week by soaking in a bleach solution for 5 minutes, or microwaving on high for two minutes. (The microwave method has even been shown to kill 99 percent of bacteria[3]!)

Kitchen Buttons, Knobs, and Handles

Taking something from the fridge, grabbing spices from the cabinet, preheating the oven, zapping something in the microwave — a lot goes into cooking a meal, including any bacteria from that raw chicken or unwashed produce.

What to do: To minimize the risk, some experts recommend using a disinfectant on any frequently used kitchen surfaces several times a day, especially before and after preparing a meal. Keep it carefree by keeping antibacterial wipes right on the counter for easy access.

 Cutting Boards

With all the ingredients flying around that kitchen, it's hard to keep designated cutting boards for each type of food. (Fresh veggies tossed on a board right after a raw steak probably isn't such a good idea). But this hotbed for cross-contamination is essential to keep clean. Scientists debate whether wood or plastic makes for a better board: Plastic boards seem safer and easier to clean (because they're not porous), but once they're scored from repeated slicing, it's hard to clean the microscopic grooves [4]. Wood sucks bacteria down into its core, but researchers disagree about whether bacteria ever resurface; one study noted that heavily used wooden boards were more problematic than new ones.

What to do: Keep plastic boards clean by regularly running through the dishwasher (or washing with near-boiling water if the dishwasher isn't an option). Consider microwaving wooden ones to get the bad guys out. (But be careful — some folks have managed to catch their cutting boards on fire.) Let both boards air-dry completely before storing to minimize potential bacteria growth. But since the research is really mixed, just be sure to replace heavily nicked boards regularly.

Drip Coffee Maker

Even though coffee itself has some antimicrobial properties, coffee makers still need to be cleaned [5] [6]. Most home coffee makers don’t get hot enough to kill anything growing in the wet, dark environment of the water reservoir or the machine’s internal piping.

What to do: Running a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar through the machine once a month may help inhibit the growth of mold and some bacteria. Let half the mixture run through the machine, then switch it off for an hour before finishing the cycle. And don’t forget to deep-clean the carafe!

BEDROOM

 Pillows

Pillows aren’t just packed with feathers — turns out they can also be home to several types of allergy-inflaming fungi [7]. (Ick.) And all those hours spent sweating, shedding skin, and drooling like a sheepdog also create ideal conditions for dust mites, another potential allergy trigger.

What to do: In addition to regularly laundering bedding (specific instructions below), anti-allergen covers can help protect pillows from outside germs getting in and keep the sneezy stuff (down, anyone?) inside [8].

Sheets

Take all the reasons to be worried about pillows and add sweat to the tune of up to one liter per night.

What to do: Washing and drying everything on the highest heat available is a good policy, but regular bleaching is a good idea, too. (In fact, studies suggest a good hot wash and dose of bleach will not only kill bacteria on the cloth, but also cleans out the machine so germs aren't continuously spread around [9].)

BATHROOM

 Bath Mat

Bath mats sit there, soaked with shower water and pressed up against the floor, slowing evaporation and providing the dark, damp environment mold and bacteria love. Add to that the fact bathroom floors have been shown be one of the most contaminated parts of the bathroom (toilet bowl excluded, of course) and it’s obvious why we should put some brainpower towards that bath mat [10].

What to do: Launder mats once per week on the highest heat and with bleach (if possible — defer to the mat’s washing instructions, especially if it has rubber backing). And (clearly) keep separate from any bedding or clothes. Wooden mats may be an easier option, since surface disinfectants can replace regular laundering, but it’s important to remember to disinfect the floor to avoid re-infecting a clean mat.

Laundry Basket

All the grime from sweaty workout gear, underwear, and bedding sits in that laundry bag, soiling the hamper itself.

What to do: Try using one bag for dirty clothes, and one for the clean stuff, and wash the dirty bag along with the clothes! For hard plastic hampers, use any hard surface disinfectant, but be wary of anything with the potential to discolor (i.e. bleach).

Makeup and Makeup Brushes

People shouldn’t get diseases from getting dolled up, but cosmetics have been known to do just that [11]! Eye makeup seems to be the greatest cause for concern; one study found that within just three months of use, 40 percent of tested mascara tubes had some creepy crawlies growing in them [12] [13].

What to do: A good rule of thumb is to replace eye makeup every season; toss lotions and liquid foundation every six months; and get fresh power-based products, lipstick, and nail polish every two years.

 Toothbrushes

Studies have found that flushing the toilet can spew bathroom-related bacteria into the air [14] [15]. (Ick!) Needless to say, it's a good idea to store that toothbrush far away from the potential contaminants (and close that lid before flushing!).

What to do: The ADA suggests making sure to rinse toothbrushes thoroughly after use, allow them to dry completely, and replace every three to four months. And while they don't deem sanitizing necessary, they do discourage sharing toothbrushes. That said, for those who were recently sick (or are sickened by the thought of germs) rinsing in a milk bleach solution is am effective disinfectant, as is running toothbrushes through the dishwasher [16]. And while it may seem that antibacterial mouth rinses (like Listerine) could be a good alternative to bleach, one study found that it was only about as effective as allowing the brush to air dry, although there are other brands (specifically Crest-Pro Health) which worked better [17].

Towels

We shower to get clean, so it’d be silly to get dirty drying off. But reusing damp bath towels could be doing just that! Drying down after the shower doesn't just get rid of the excess water — it takes with it deadskin cells and bacteria, too (including the dreaded staph infection).

What to do: The risks are low if towels are changed out about once a week and are allowed to dry completely between uses. Whileantimicrobial towels do exist, their efficacy and necessity are debatable — they could help cut down on smells, but that seems to make it easier to forget about cleaning them.

Contact Lenses

One study found that more than 80 percent of tested contact lens cases were contaminated with bacteria, regardless of the system used to clean (no-rub solution or hydrogen peroxide) [18]. (And some suggest inadequate cleaning instructions are to blame! [19])

What to do: Star by wiping out contact lens cases after each use and replace it every month (or at least clean by soaking in near-boiling water for a few minutes). If using a fancy hydrogen peroxide cleansing case, just allow fresh solution to sit in the case for 24 hours before using [20].

ON-THE-GO

Headphones

Those little buds aren’t just at risk from what they pick up in the bottom of that gym bag — using them for just one hour has been shown to coat headphones with bacteria from the ear [21].

What to do: Using water with electronic accessories is tricky, but audiophiles can clean detachable rubber nubbins (technical term) by soaking them for 15 minutes in a vinegar and water solution and letting them sit for 10 more minutes in water before drying. For the un-detachable kind a gentle mixture of soap and water should be used on the plastic exterior, and a clean toothbrush can remove any lint from the grill.

Keys

Anyone who drives — or just plans on returning home at the end of the day — probably has a set in their pocket, but who thinks about keeping keys clean?

What to do: The fact that many keys are made of brass, a copper alloy, offers some protection because it's naturally antibacterial [22] [23] [24]. But occasionally scrubbing keys with plain ol' soap or using a disinfectant probably won’t hurt, and at the very least shining them up offers some aesthetic benefits.

Handbags

A study of office workers found that women's purses were one of top three dirtiest things they touched throughout the day. In fact, one (very small) study found E. Coli on 25 percent of purses tested (out of a 50 purse sample).

What to do: Common sense (don’t rest it on the bathroom floor) and regular cleaning are enough to minimize risk. Wipe leather purses with a disinfectant wipe every few days, and put washable ones through the laundry (or send to the dry cleaner) as often as once per week.

Phone

Studies have repeatedly cited mobile phones as risk factors for infection, and we largely have our own unwashed hands to blame [25] [26] [27]. (One study found fecal bacteria on 1 in 6 phones!)

What to do: The clean up is simple: Power down the device once per week (more during cold and flu season) and wipe with a disinfectant cloth.

For the full list of 21 germiest places you aren't looking, go to Greatist.com.

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News

  • A Gwinnett County family is trying to make sense of the murder of their husband and father outside their home in a Buford subdivision overnight Thursday. The victim, identified as 43-year-old George Young, was shot dead right outside his own front door. He had just come home from working a security job and his keys were still in the front door when he was shot twice. “I heard two loud gunshots,” says his wife Tia. “At first, I thought it was gunshots, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I wasn’t sure if it was firecrackers.” Her brother, who was asleep on the couch, heard it too. He opened the door to find Young lying on the front porch. “I never heard a car speed off. My brother didn’t either,” says Tia. Gwinnett Police detectives told the woman it does not appear to have been a robbery. “We don’t know where the gunshots came from--whether they came from the porch or came from the street. But our ultimate motive, right now, is to figure out what other people heard,” says Cpl. Michele Pihera. She is asking anyone with information to come forward to police. Tia and her husband had been married close to 23 years and she wonders how she will continue alone raising their three sons. “I lost my dad a few years back to suicide, and I didn’t think it could any worse. But losing a spouse like this, I think it tops that,” she says.
  • His book called gay people 'vile.' Now, a federal judge says she may rule within the next month whether the city of Atlanta fired its fire chief over his religious views.  Kelvin Cochran lost his job in January of 2015, after self-publishing the book 'Who Told You That You Were Naked?' It includes passages that referred to homosexuality as 'vile, vulgar and inappropriate' and akin to 'bestiality.' When concern was raised about the book in late November 2014, Cochran was suspended for 30 days. His lawyer, Kevin Theriot, contends the chief was punished for his religious faith, but attorneys for the city argued that it was Cochran's actions during his suspension while an investigation was underway that got him ousted. City lawyer David Gevertz pointed out that Cochran had been directed to not make public comments about his suspension, but instead helped launch a PR campaign with the Georgia Baptist Convention that resulted in thousands of angry e-mails being sent to City Hall. 'We did not fire Chief Cochran because of his religious beliefs,' said Atlanta Chief Counsel Robert Godfrey. 'It was about trust. It was about his campaign to have people contact the mayor and things like that afterwards.' Theriot contends that Mayor Kasim Reed's public statements and social media posts contradict that, including one in which Reed made clear that he did not share the anti-gay views expressed in Cochran's book. The lawsuit points out that there were 'zero instances of discrimination' by Cochran against any employees, and so Theriot says the rest of what the city says is a pretext. 'There are a few isolated passages that they take out of context to try to depict Chief as being hateful, when in fact, Chief Cochran's beliefs require him to treat everybody equally--and the only evidence before the court is that what he always did,' says Theriot. Theriot acknowledged that some copies of Cochran's book were given to men on the job, but he insists they were from people who asked for it and/or shared similar beliefs as the chief. Gevertz pointed out in court that the book created a hostile work environment and could leave the city open to lawsuits from disgruntled employees or unsuccessful candidates once the views of Cochran, a member of the mayor's cabinet, were known publicly. Cochran's lawsuit seeks back pay after his suspension and termination, as well as reinstatement. He has also filed a separate complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Cochran says his childhood dream was to become a fire chief, and he says the discrimination and racial slurs experienced in his early years working in Louisiana combined to make him vow that if he were ever in a position of authority, no one would face discrimination because they were a minority under his leadership. Yet, he says, that is why the city terminated him. 'I was shocked that writing a book encouraging Christian men to be the husbands and fathers and men that God had called us to be would jeopardize my 34-year career,' said Cochran on Friday. 'It's still unthinkable to me that the very faith and patriotism that inspired my professional achievements and drove me to treat all people with love, equity, and justice, are actually what the government used to end my childhood dream-come-true career. 'In the United States of America, true tolerance should be a two-way street for all Americans,' Cochran continued. 'No one deserves to be marginalized or driven out of their profession because of their faith.' U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May grilled lawyers on both sides with questions about the cases they cited in support of their arguments, and says she will write a detailed analysis and likely issue a ruling in about three weeks. The attorneys are seeking summary judgment, meaning they are asking the judge to decide the case. If she cannot rule on every issue raised, says Judge May, the Cochran case will go to trial on the ones she cannot resolve, putting the questions in the hands of a jury. A trial would likely be held next spring. Any jury pool will likely include some people like Tonya Ditty, who tells WSB that she has been a longtime supporter of Cochran since the case began in 2014. She attended Friday's hearing and says she was also at a rally at the state Capitol for him. Ditty says she is concerned about 'the trampling of religious rights,' no matter what religion. 'When our Founders wrote the Bill of Rights, they did not pick a religion,' says Ditty. 'This is fitting for everyone. I think that often is said that, 'Oh, the Christians just want protection.' This is for any religion. I don't think it's ever been stated that we are trying just to protect Christians.' Ditty, who says she is a Christian, says people of faith are being stifled. 'I either have to live out my faith in church or in my home, but dare me come out into the marketplace of ideas, and then I'm under attack,' she says.
  • A Montana congressman misled investigators about his assault on a reporter the day before he was elected and claimed that the 'liberal media' was 'trying to make a story' out of it, according to documents released Friday.U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, told an officer in the aftermath of the attack that Guardian newspaper reporter Ben Jacobs had grabbed him by the wrist and pulled both of them to the floor, according to notes from a Gallatin County sheriff's officer who interviewed the politician the night of the attack.Multiple witnesses contradicted that account, and Gianforte later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. The attack occurred the day before his victory in a May 25 special election, by which time many voters already had cast ballots by mail.More than 100 pages of documents, photos and audio from the investigation were released under a court order following requests from The Associated Press and other news organizations.The documents include interviews with members of a Fox News crew who were in the room with Gianforte and Jacobs at the politician's Bozeman campaign office. They said Gianforte became enraged over what he perceived as biased coverage before body-slamming Jacobs, throwing him to the ground and punching him.Gianforte staffer Josh Elle — the candidate's driver — told investigators that he was in an adjacent room when he heard a commotion and looked into the interview room. Elle told investigators that Gianforte appeared to be striking the reporter with closed fists before someone in the room closed the door.Another worker said Gianforte and others on the campaign had been complaining earlier in the day about 'duplicitous' campaign coverage by the Guardian and Buzzfeed.Gianforte told Sgt. Scott Secor in an interview that Jacobs had interrupted as the Fox crew set up for an interview and 'started interrogating in a very intensive way.'I probably shouldn't do it but I reached out for his phone ... he grabbed my wrist, he spun and we ended up on the floor ... so he pulled me down on top of him,' the sergeant quoted Gianforte as saying.In the hours after the assault, Gianforte's campaign spokesman, Shane Scanlon, issued a statement that also blamed the attack on Jacobs, saying the reporter had grabbed the candidate's wrist. The records released Friday show that Gianforte first gave the misleading account to authorities.Gianforte spokesman Travis Hall insisted the documents contained 'nothing new.'No one was misled, and anyone who says otherwise is mistaken. Greg took responsibility for his actions and is focused on serving the people of Montana,' Hall said in an emailed statement.Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert said he was aware of Gianforte's comments to investigators but did not consider additional charges such as obstruction of justice because authorities were focused on the assault allegation.'When the police are investigating a case, suspects of crimes will say misleading things, and apparently that's exactly what happened here on the part of both Mr. Gianforte and his campaign,' Lambert said.'It is not a crime per se to lie to the cops,' added Lambert, a Republican. 'The main thing here is he was charged with assaulting Ben Jacobs and pled guilty to that.'Gianforte paid a $385 fine and completed 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management counseling. He also donated $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.The assault happened too late in the campaign to affect the outcome of the election to replace Ryan Zinke, who resigned to become President Donald Trump's Interior Department secretary.Gianforte is up for re-election next year and has filed to run. Six Democrats have lined up to challenge him.The congressman unsuccessfully fought a judge's order for him to be booked by law enforcement and photographed like other defendants. In October, Gallatin County District Judge Holly Brown ordered the release of Gianforte's mug shot, which is sure to be used as fodder by Democrats in the run-up to the election.__Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter at www.twitter.com/matthewbrownap .
  • Update (Friday, November 17) President Donald Trump said in a tweet Friday he’s delaying a new policy allowing the body parts of African elephants shot for sport to be imported until he can review “all conservation facts.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday that it will allow the importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport. The agency said encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs. Animal rights advocates and environmental groups criticized the decision. On Friday, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee urged the administration to reverse the policy, calling it the “wrong move at the wrong time.” Trump said that the policy had been “under study for years.” He says he will review the issue with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Earlier The Trump administration plans to lift a ban on Friday that barred big game hunters from bringing trophies from elephants killed in a pair of African nations to America, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told ABC News in a statement Wednesday that the decision was made after officials in Zimbabwe and Zambia provided them with information to support a reversal of the ban. 'Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,' the spokesperson told ABC News. The decision will overturn a 2014 ban implemented by President Barack Obama’s administration in response to falling elephant populations.  African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A provision in the act, however, allows for the government to give permits that let people import trophies from such animals if evidence shows that hunting them helps conservation efforts, according to NBC News. The rule reversal will apply to elephants hunted in Zimbabwe from Jan. 21, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2018, the news station reported. It will also apply to elephants killed in Zambia in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and “applications that meet all other applicable permitting requirements,” a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson told NBC News. According to the 2016 Great Elephant Census, Savanna elephant populations fell by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014. About 352,000 elephants were spotted during the survey, 82,300 in Zimbabwe and 21,700 in Zambia. Both countries had areas that saw substantial declines in elephant populations along the Zambezi river in Zambia and in Zimbabwe’s Sebungwe region, according to the census. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on a plan to allow importation of elephant parts (all times local):7:55 p.m.President Donald Trump says he's delaying a new policy allowing the body parts of African elephants shot for sport to be imported until he can review 'all conservation facts.'The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday that it will allow the importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport. The agency said encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs.Animal rights advocates and environmental groups criticized the decision. On Friday, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee urged the administration to reverse the policy, calling it the 'wrong move at the wrong time.'Trump tweeted that the policy had been 'under study for years.' He says he will review the issue with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.___1:40 p.m.The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is calling on the Trump administration to reverse its new policy allowing importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport, labeling it the 'wrong move at the wrong time.'California Rep. Ed Royce is questioning the action because of concerns not only about African wildlife but U.S. national security, citing the political upheaval in Zimbabwe,.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a written notice issued Thursday that permitting elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be brought back as trophies will raise money for conservation programs.Royce says that when carefully regulated, conservation hunts could help the wildlife population, but 'this is the wrong move at the wrong time.
  • The family of a 5-year-old boy whose skull was crushed in the rotating wall of a hotel restaurant has sued the Atlanta hotel, accusing it of negligence in his death. Attorney Joseph Fried filed suit Wednesday for Rebecca and Michael Holt of Charlotte, North Carolina, whose son Charlie died April 14. 'What started out as the best family trip, turned into the worst nightmare,' Rebecca Holt said in a statement emailed by Fried. They had chosen the Sun Dial restaurant 'because it was recommended as a fun place for families with kids to see the Atlanta skyline and enjoy a meal,' Charlie's father, Michael Holt, said in the statement. Marriott International, the hotel's owner, didn't immediately respond to an email and phone call requesting comment. Police had said the boy wandered away from his family's window table at the restaurant atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel and got his head stuck between tables. They also said the rotating floor shut off automatically when he was struck. The lawsuit disagrees with police statements. It said the family left along a path that various members had used without problems to go to and from the bathroom. But this time, it said, a booth rotating near a stationary wall blocked their path. Charlie, a few steps ahead of his parents, 'was too short to see past the booth and did not appreciate the danger until it was too late,' and was trapped in the 'pinch point' between booth and wall, according to the lawsuit. 'To Michael's and Rebecca's horror, the rotation did not automatically stop when Charlie got trapped,' the lawsuit states, and there was no emergency button to stop it. Rebecca Holt tried to pull her son free and Michael Holt 'threw his body against the booth,' but both actions were futile, it said. It said Michael Holt heard his son's skull crack before someone finally stopped the rotation. 'The family has filed this law suit to set the record straight about what happened and to make sure, to the best of their abilities, that no other family ever has to suffer the same fate,' Fried's statement said. Defendants include Marriott, as well as the chain that previously owned the Peachtree before Marriott bought the chain. Also named are other former owners and operators, and the architects, interior designer and contractor in charge of renovations to the restaurant in 2012 and 2013. The hotel reopened the restaurant in June. 'After Charlie's death, Marriott has said that it won't allow the restaurant to revolve again until it has addressed the dangerous pinch points,' Fried's statement said. 'Marriott should not have waited for this tragedy before acting to correct this hazard, especially while it held itself out as a safe place for kids.' ___ McConnaughey reported from New Orleans.