A new study unveiled the dirtiest place in the airport, and it’s not the bathroom.
InsuranceQuotes.com recently conducted 18 tests on six different surfaces at three major airports to discover that the airport’s self-check kiosks had the most colony-forming units of viable bacteria and fungal cells per square inch.
Specifically, the company said one spot tested for 253,857 colony-forming units. Another at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta — one of the busiest airports in the world — tested with more than 1 million colony-forming units.
Research shows that fungi and bacteria can cause allergic responses, respiratory issues and contribute to the spread of infectious diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most fungi live on human skin, indoor surfaces and in soil and plants. Most aren't considered dangerous. However, some can create fungal eye infections, rashes and weaken immune systems, according to the CDC.
Other dirty spots at airports included bench armrests (21,630 units) and water fountains (19,181 units).
For comparison, the average airport toilet seat had 172 units, according to Time Money.
At home, most toilet flush buttons have 95,145 units and kitchen countertops have 361 units, according to the study.
“Each airline can decide how often and how well an airplane is cleaned, so if the turnaround time between flights is low, the plane may not be cleaned at all. Even when a plane is cleaned, general cleaners are used rather than stronger disinfectants, leaving dangerous germs right in your lap,” the study said.
Airports in both Fort Lauderdale and Dubai have all recently added new kiosks, showing there’s no slowing down in building more of the airport's dirtiest item.
However, according to Secure ID News, the Dubai kiosks won’t require much human interaction, which could avoid some of the health concerns. Dubai's kiosks have the ability to identify passengers using facial recognition technology within one to two seconds.
The kiosks join the rising trend of “smart gates,” which allow people to scan their apps at kiosk gates and, using biometric signals, allow people to pass through into security without long waits.
Avoiding bacteria is only one hiccup people face at airports. The Economist recently asked its journalists to report the worst thing about each of the airports they visited. Growing crowds, slow security lines and poor navigation were among the problems listed by these journalists.