Hot drinks are a lifesaver during the winter period. Unless you live in the deep south, the temperatures are dropping every day, and a cup of tea or coffee can be like manna from heaven.
However, if you’re drinking tea or coffee in the workplace right now, I might have some bad news for you.
A new study has found that your average office tea bag has more germs on it than the office toilet seat does. Wait, it gets worse – they could actually have around SEVENTEEN TIMES MORE germs than the toilet seat.
Yup, I hate to break it you, especially my friends over there in Britain, for whom tea is a much bigger deal than in the US, but apparently it’s true.
The study was conducted by Initial Washroom Hygiene, a UK-based company who produce things like hand dryers, soap dispensers, and other such public bathroom products.
They took bacteria readings of everyday appliances and items found around the average British office space. Even though the country have pretty high hygiene standards in terms of health and safety laws, it’s obviously not working all that well when it comes to making a round of hot drinks for your coworkers.
They found that a sample area of the average office toilet seat contains around 220 different germs, whereas a teabag contains around 3,785.
This doesn’t seem right, so what’s the science behind it?
Well, it all starts with personal hygiene standards. The Initial study found that, in a poll of 1,000 people, around 80 percent of office workers admitted to not washing their hands before preparing tea or coffee for their coworkers. So gross!
So, take that into account, and then think about how teabags are stored in an office – a big load of them just sitting there in a jar. When people dip their (unwashed) hands in, the germs have a pretty ideal environment to thrive, so they fester away for as long as the teabags are there.
There are other factors that can increase your exposure to bacteria in the workplace too. If you like to drink hot drinks in your work day, you should bring your own cup from home, because using someone else’s cup can expose you to over 1,700 germs.
“If you stop to think about the number of different hand that touch things such as the kettle handle, tea bog box lid, muds, and so on, the potential for cross-contamination really adds up” says Dr. Peter Barrett of Initial washroom Hygiene.
The study also found that there were high germ levels in other parts of the kitchen, including tea kettles (2,483) and refrigerator door (1,592).
But don’t panic – there are solutions to this gross problem. For one thing, make sure you always wash your hands after going to the bathroom AND before preparing drinks for you or colleagues. Encourage your coworkers to do the same. Secondly, make sure you’re drinking out of your own mug, and that no one else is using it.
And finally, wherever possible, use individually wrapped teabags, like the ones seen above. That will eliminate most of the problem.
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