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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

  • The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is making progress on a massive backlog of rape kits and has already identified 88 suspects in those cases. Only Channel 2 Action News was there as the GBI briefed key lawmakers about its progress. House Speaker David Ralston and other Georgia lawmakers toured the GBI's crime lab Monday to find out more about the kits. Georgia had more than 5,000 kits backlogged for as long as 10 years. After the legislature passed a law requiring testing, the GBI started processing them last summer. Since then, they've tested 979 kits, and from those, they got 88 hits on a national DNA database, meaning they've identified 88 suspects in those cases. RELATED STORIES: State investigating hundreds of untested rape kits linked to children Channel 2 investigates Georgia rape kits going untested State crime lab to get hundreds more untested rape kits Ralston, who helped push the law through the state house, says this is a big step to getting justice for victims. 'It's really, really gratifying to know that we can really look victims in the eye now and tell them that ... we're serious about bringing justice,' Ralston said. State Rep. Scott Holcomb wrote the bill requiring the testing. He says it's just as important to make sure that there's never a backlog again. 'I'm very encouraged,' Holcomb said. 'We know that this problem is going to be solved.' GBI director Vernon Keenan says they expect to have 95 percent of the rape kits tested by June 2019. 'We're bringing justice to sexual-assault victims and law enforcement and prosecutors are very thankful, and I know that the victims are,' Kennan said. The crime lab also has to test new rape kits, along with DNA from other crimes, too. We have new information about how the GBI is reducing the state's large number of backlogged Sexual Assault Kits. pic.twitter.com/CxSpC1CttY-- Richard Elliot (@RElliotWSB) July 24, 2017
  • Channel 2 Action News has confirmed DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann returned to work Monday morning, following a 40-day governor-ordered suspension. The suspension was linked to findings from an investigation into Mann's arrest on May 6 in Piedmont Park. Mann is charged with indecency and obstruction for exposing himself in Piedmont Park before running from an Atlanta Police Department bicycle officer. Mann's case is still pending in Atlanta Municipal Court, where his attorney has entered a motion to dismiss the case based on double jeopardy. Mann is asking the court to consider his suspension, which was ordered by Gov. Deal, as punishment served in the case. As of Friday, Judge Crystal Gaines had not yet made a ruling on the case. The case is scheduled to be heard Thursday afternoon, following a reset earlier this month. Since June 13, Capt. Ruth Stringer has served as interim sheriff of DeKalb County. RELATED STORIES: Judge appoints interim sheriff in place of DeKalb Sheriff Jeffrey Mann Sheriff accused of indecency headed to trial DeKalb sheriff suspends himself after indecency arrest Investigation into sheriff's alleged indecent acts to continue DeKalb sheriff ran after being caught in park for indecent acts, police say Residents say sheriff's arrest one more dark cloud on DeKalb County Her appointment was made by a DeKalb County Superior Court judge following the governor's executive order. That appointment also followed a self-imposed suspension in late May that Mann announced to his staff via an internal memo. Voter reaction Some DeKalb voters seemed indifferent to news of Mann's return Monday. 'When you have that much power, you can kind of do what you want to do,' said Niya Johnson. 'That's how it's working nowadays in today's society, unfortunately.' Johnson never expected Mann's career to suffer from the incident. 'He can do whatever he wants and still go back to work,' she said. 'That's how that works.' Kailand Davis's only problem with the case is Mann's request for it to be dismissed from Atlanta Municipal Court. 'Nah, see, that's him trying to get above the law. He needs to face charges,' said Davis. 'Everyone gets suspended for doing something at work, but this is a criminal offense he committed so he should trialed (be tried) just like anyone else.' DeKalb resident Lisa Keys said she found it difficult to explain the situation to her children. 'What if you have your kids there at the park and they see something like that? That's not fair to those kids. That's something he should have did (in) personal time. That's a personal thing.' Mann entered a plea of not guilty to both charges prior to the case reset last month.
  • A small airplane landed on Ga. 316 in Gwinnett County on Monday afternoon, police said. The plane is registered to a Buford man, FAA records show. It appears to be designed to look like a Messerschmitt BF 109, a plane used by Nazi Germany in World War II. The design includes a swastika on the plane’s tail. The aircraft landed safely just before 1 p.m. and there were no injuries reported, according to Gwinnett County police. The plane landed on the highway near Harbins Road, the same intersection where an accident involving a milk truck spill snarled traffic earlier this month.  Gwinnett teen suing CSX after train accident severed his legs Fred Meyer, who was piloting the plane, was the only person on board. He does not own the aircraft but built the engine and helps take care of the maintenance, he told Channel 2 Action News. “The engine just quit, it just died,” Meyer told Channel 2. “You just sort of fall back on your training at that point in time. You dont think of the circumstances, you just think of your training.” The landing took place about three miles east of the Gwinnett County Airport at 12:45 p.m. After the landing near Dacula, the plane was pulled into the median. The plane was described by a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman as a “Sonex experimental, amateur-built aircraft.” Sonex is a company that sells kits that allow people to build their own airplanes. Meyer told Channel 2 the Nazi design was “just for fun.” “A lot of people like to paint these planes up like old war birds,” Meyer said.  Like Gwinnett County News on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter and Instagram In other Gwinnett news:
  • The House has rejected a plan to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to shift $2 billion from other programs to cover a sudden budget shortfall in its Choice program of private-sector care following opposition from veterans' groups. The vote was 219-186 Monday on a bill to provide a six-month funding fix, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi joined other members of her party in voicing objections after veterans expressed concerns about cuts to other parts of the VA. The Choice program offers veterans federally paid medical care outside the VA and is a priority of President Donald Trump. Veterans' groups are seeking additional money for both Choice and core VA programs. House negotiators now plan to meet with the Senate, where lawmakers are crafting a separate proposal. Put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital, the Choice program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without congressional action Choice would run out of money by mid-August, causing disruptions in medical care to thousands of patients. Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Veterans Committee, criticized the required spending offsets and urged members to oppose the plan. He suggested it would be folly to ignore the views of major veterans' groups and pass a flawed plan, only for it to be rejected in the Senate. 'The fact that Republican leadership is requiring offsets for direct patient care for veterans is troubling,' Walz said. Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, the chairman of the veterans' panel, had argued quick action was needed to address the shortfall. He rejected descriptions of the proposal as 'privatization.' Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the Republican chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has been working to reach a compromise and his office declined to comment. The panel's top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, introduced a bill earlier this month that would provide equal levels of extra funding for Choice and VA programs. Eight major veterans' groups expressed opposition to the House plan, voicing displeasure after it was quietly released last Friday after days of closed-door negotiations. At its national convention in New Orleans Monday, the leader of Veterans of Foreign Wars took aim at Trump over the House plan, describing the proposal as unacceptable privatization. VFW National Commander Brian Duffy said it would lead to higher out of pocket costs for veterans and harm their care. VFW members in the convention hall were heard chanting 'No' to the plan. 'It would violate the campaign promise that President Trump told our convention a year ago — a promise that the VA system would remain a public system because it is a public trust,' Duffy said. Separately, the House also voted Monday to significantly expand college aid for military veterans, removing a 15-year time limit to tap into educational aid and increasing benefits for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve. It was the biggest expansion of the GI Bill in a decade. Veterans' groups cheered the proposed expansion to the GI Bill but drew a line with Choice. They see the House proposal as setting a dangerous precedent because it takes money from core VA benefits to pay for private-sector care. The plan would trim pensions for some veterans and collect fees for housing loans guaranteed by the VA. 'Veterans' health care benefits have already been 'paid for' through the service and sacrifice of the men and women who wore our nation's uniform,' the groups said. They include AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart and Wounded Warrior Project. Shulkin announced the budget shortfall last month, citing unexpected demand from veterans for private care as well as poor budget planning. To slow spending, the department last month instructed VA medical centers to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors. Congress approved the Choice program in 2014 after the scandal at the Phoenix VA, in which some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. During the 2016 campaign, Trump criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, pledging to give veterans more options in seeing outside providers. Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014, as the VA's more than 1,200 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care. ___ Follow Hope Yen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hopeyen1
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  • President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, disclosed in a statement to members of Congress four distinct interactions with Russians during the presidential campaign and transition period. The 11-page statement provides his first detailed account of meetings over the last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States, a Russian lawyer and a Russian banker. The encounters: APRIL 27, 2016, MAYFLOWER HOTEL, WASHINGTON Kushner described meeting Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a hotel reception before Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate, was to deliver a major foreign policy speech on the campaign trail. He said Kislyak was one of four ambassadors he greeted with a handshake and pleasantries. He said he thanked the dignitaries for attending and told them that he hoped they would enjoy Trump's speech and the ambassadors, in turn, 'expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election.' He said each interaction lasted less than a minute and he never took up any of the ambassadors on their invitations to lunch at their embassies. ___ JUNE 9, 2016, TRUMP TOWER, NEW YORK CITY Though Kushner maintains that he didn't even recall this meeting until recently reviewing his records, this gathering has caused significant headaches for the Trump White House since it was publicly reported on earlier this month. Kushner said he was invited by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., to a meeting at Trump Tower with a person who turned out to be Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. He said he arrived late, heard discussion about Moscow's ban on Americans adopting Russian children and concluded that the meeting was such a 'waste of time' that he quickly looked for a way out. 'I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote 'Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting,' Kushner said. Emails that Trump Jr. released show that the president's oldest son came to the meeting with the expectation that the lawyer would provide negative information about Hillary Clinton. Kushner said he hadn't read or recalled those emails until his lawyers recently showed them to him when reviewing documents to submit to the committees. ___ DEC. 1, 2016, TRUMP TOWER, NEW YORK CITY Kushner said this meeting involved Kislyak and Michael Flynn, who would later become Trump's national security adviser, and lasted between 20 minutes and a half-hour. In his statement, Kushner denied media reports that said he discussed with Kislyak a secret back-channel for communications. Instead, Kushner said, Kislyak asked him if there was a secure line for him to convey to Trump administration officials information about Syria that he said was coming from his 'generals.' Kushner said that given the importance of Syria and the 'ongoing humanitarian crisis,' he asked if there was an existing communications channel at the Russian Embassy that Kislyak felt comfortable using to relay information to Flynn. 'The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration,' Kushner said. 'Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a 'secret back channel.'' Flynn was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about whether he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak in a phone call. ___ DEC. 13, 2016, NEW YORK CITY Kushner said he attended a meeting in New York with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, after being asked to do so by Kislyak. He said Gorkov introduced himself and provided him with two gifts: a bag of dirt from a village in Belarus where Kushner's grandparents were from and a piece of art from the same location. He said Gorkov discussed his bank and the Russian economy and described himself as friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Kushner insisted that the meeting had nothing to do with his work as a businessman. He said the men did not discuss sanctions against Russia or anything about 'my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind.' 'I did not know or have any contact with Mr. Gorkov before that meeting, and I have had no reason to connect with him since,' Kushner said. ___ Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP