Healthy living

Is your home a health hazard?

Is your home a health hazard? Hygiene hotspots found

Even the cleanest homes have hygiene hotspots - areas which provide a breeding ground for germs - new research has found.

A study carried out by the Hygiene Council found that bathroom seals, fridges and kettle handles were all potential health hazards in UK homes.

Experts took swabs from 20 homes in nine countries worldwide to test for the presence of bacteria and moulds which can cause illness.

In UK homes, the dirtiest items were bathroom seals, with 80 per cent found to be unsatisfactory or heavily contaminated with bacteria.

The next dirtiest site was the inside of fridges, with 35 per cent of samples unsatisfactory and 15 per cent heavily contaminated. Fridge temperatures were often set at too high a temperature, allowing the growth of bacteria, the researchers said.

And 20 per cent of cloth kitchen towels were also found to harbour germs. They were often washed at temperatures below 60°C, too low to kill bacteria.

Worldwide, kettle handles appeared to be dirtier than computer keyboards - 22 per cent failed bacterial tests, compared with 19 per cent of keyboards.

However, it's not all bad news. Only 6 per cent of pushchairs failed the bacterial tests, showing just how diligent parents are when it comes to keeping their baby's items clean.

Germs isolated in the study included food bacteria such as E.coli, Enterobacteria and Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause food poisoning, and penicillin mould.

The majority of mould detected in the study was found in bathrooms, kitchens and around sinks. Household moulds have been linked to respiratory illnesses, asthma and allergies.

Professor John Oxford, Chairman of the Hygiene Council, said the results show that targeting the right areas with the right cleaning method counted most, rather than how often people cleaned.

He said: "The high levels of bacterial and mould contamination found in these areas indicate that bathroom seals are not cleaned effectively or correctly.

"A build up of bacteria and the presence of moulds in an enclosed area like a bathroom can potentially exacerbate or cause health problems and should be removed from homes."

This article was published on Thu 29 July 2010

Image © Julián Rovagnati -

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