One in 10 bank cards carries illness-causing faecal bacteria
26 per cent of hands sampled showed traces of faecal contamination and bacteria including E.coli60 per cent of participants surveyed admitted they didn't wash their hands before eating
13:56 GMT, 15 October 2012
Cards carry a surprising amount of illness-causing bacteria
Next time you get your debit card out, you might want to use it to buy some hand wash.
A study has found that nearly one in 10 bank cards contains faecal matter. Cash is little better with one in seven bank notes containing high levels of bacteria similar to that found in a dirty toilet bowl.
The research, carried out at Queen Mary, University of London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, showed our hands are therefore dirtier than we might think.
More than a quarter (26 per cent) of hands sampled showed traces of faecal contamination including bacteria such as E.coli, the study found.
And we may be making ourselves ill as a result. A further survey of the 272 particpants revealed only 39 per cent washed their hands before eating.
The vast majority (91 per cent) of respondents also stated that they washed their hands after using the toilet, although the levels of faecal organisms contaminating the cards and currency suggested otherwise, researchers said.
Washing hands with soap can reduce diarrhoeal infections by up to 42 per cent but only 69 per cent of people reported doing this whenever possible.
Dr Ron Cutler, who led the research at Queen Mary, said: 'Our analysis revealed that by handling cards and money each day we are coming into contact with some potential pathogens revealing faecal contamination including E. coli and Staphylococci.
'People may tell us they wash their hands but the research shows us different, and highlights just how easily transferable these pathogens are, surviving on our money and cards.'
Only 39 per cent of participants said they washed their hands before eating
Dr Val Curtis, from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: 'Our research shows just how important handwashing is – the surprising levels of contamination that we found on everyday objects is a sign that people are forgetting to wash their hands after the toilet, one of the key moments for infection prevention.'
Nick Wilcher, marketing manager of Radox, who funded the study to raise awareness of Global Handwashing Day, said: 'Our research highlights just how much bacteria we are exposed to in our everyday lives, on objects such as money and cards.
'We hope this study makes people think twice and encourages people to wash their hands after going to the toilet and before eating.'
Samples were taken from 272 people from east and west London, Birmingham and Liverpool – and in total 816 specimens were collected.
Out of the samples taken, the cards and notes in Birmingham showed the most contamination, with faecal matter detected on 17 per cent of specimens.