It's an object dirtier than a public toilet seat, but he probably won't get sick
There are a lot of items we touch every day that contain a lot of germs, but most of us would never lick those items.
On most people's list of the dirtiest items would probably be public washrooms, ATMs, hotel TV remote controls, gas pump handles and transit handrails, whether they be in the entrance way or on a subway or bus. And speaking of handrails, a kid recently made a hard-earned dollar bill by licking the entire rail at the entrance to a New York City subway station. He did it on a dare.
It's an item that many of us try to avoid touching. When I was younger, my friend and I raced up and down an escalator in a Toronto subway station. We had to touch the black rail as we ran to make sure we didn't fall and both of our hands looked like we had just come out of a coal mine after the 30-second race.
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"If anyone dares you to lick anything in public, lick a toilet seat," said University of Arizona microbiologist Charles P. Gerba to NBC's The Body Odd blog. "It would be safer to lick a toilet than a handrail on a bus."
After examining levels of germs in all kinds of places, he found about 50 different microorganisms on a toilet seat and hundreds of thousands on a handrail. This is because most people wipe toilet seats or use seat covers because we think that area is so dirty, but people don't think much about railings.
While we can avoid licking objects many people touch, we can't avoid touching them ourselves. As for the dirtiest thing we touch, gas pump handles top the list containing the most germs. According to a study by Kimberly-Clark Professional, people have a 71 per cent chance of picking up a dirty pump when fueling their car. Mailbox handles, escalator railings, ATM buttons, parking metres, crosswalk buttons and vending machines also made the list.
Another study found ATMs and public toilets carry the same bacteria.
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One possible reason for these items being so dirty as opposed to public restrooms is because nobody cleans the buttons or railings. I personally have never seen anyone clean a gas pump handle or a handrail in an entrance to a subway.
Even though this handrail licking looks extremely disgusting and the star of the video may have licked up to 300,000 microbes, he probably won't get sick. Mary Joe Kasten, an assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, told The Body Odd people have bacteria in our mouth that provides protection.
As for touching those railings when you have to, Gerba recommends using hand sanitizer after getting off the bus or subway.
(Getty Images photo of a handrail at the entrance to a New York City subway station)