Think you’re safe from poop particules if you wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet?
Ha, that’s cute. But unfortunately, you’re wrong. So, so, incredibly wrong.
Let’s just get the bad news out of the way: if you share a bathroom with other people, there’s a very good chance you brushed your teeth with your housemate’s fecal bacteria this morning. Sorry about that.
A recent study found toothbrushes kept in dorm bathrooms shared among an average of nine students were basically covered in poop. Well, kind of — sixty per cent of the toothbrushes had fecal coliform bacteria on them, with an eighty per cent chance that bacteria came from someone else's... well, business.
They say sharing is caring, but this is pretty unsettling stuff.
If you're sitting there thinking, 'Well, I'm very clever because I keep my toothbrush in the drawer, so no toilet particules for me!', don't feel so smug, The method of storage made no discernible difference in these findings; neither did rinsing the brushes with cold water, hot water or mouthwash, or even using a toothbrush cover. (Post continues after gallery.)
“Using a toothbrush cover doesn’t protect a toothbrush from bacterial growth, but actually creates an environment where bacteria are better suited to grow by keeping the bristles moist and not allowing the head of the toothbrush to dry out between uses,” explained Lauren Aber, one of the researchers.
And here you were thinking you had this whole personal hygiene thing sorted.
While all of this information deserves a dry retch, there's also the matter of what has actually been expelled from your loved ones' — because it might so happen to upset your body.
“The main concern is not with the presence of your own fecal matter on your toothbrush, but rather when a toothbrush is contaminated with fecal matter from someone else, which contains bacteria, viruses or parasites that are not part of your normal flora,” Aber said.
The solution seems easy: just move your toothbrush to an entirely different room in the house and the gross toilet germs won't be able to touch it, right? That's certainly logical, but sorry: you're wrong again. In an experiment, the Mythbusters team — Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage — tested 24 toothbrushes that had been kept in a bathroom, and two that were kept in an office far away from a bathroom.
Lo and behold, fecal matter was detected on every single toothbrush, which points to an alarming and seemingly unavoidable conclusion: the whole world, not just your beloved toothbrush, has some amount of poop bacteria on it. The door handle you turned a few moments ago. The headphones you have jammed into your ears. And the bus seats you sit on during your work commute.
Speaking of bus seats, have you ever wondered why they've always upholstered in such unsightly patterns and colours?
It's not because bus companies have universally bad taste. These seat covers are deliberately chosen to distract passengers from any nasty stains or grime that happen to appear.
Do these findings surprise you?