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Who has the most germs in their workspace?

Did you know men have more bacteria in their workspace than women?

Researchers at San Diego State University and the University of Arizona swabbed dozens of offices and discovered the surfaces in men's offices had 10 to 20 percent more germs than their female counterparts.

What you may not realize is that you share your office with about 500 coworkers you can't even see.

The bacteria can be on practically any surface including your phone, keyboard, desk and computer mouse.

Researchers found more germs in male workspaces.

In some cases, the prevalence of germs may be blamed on male hygiene or a lack thereof.

Biologists at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, however, say the simple fact is that men tend to just be bigger with more skin surface area for bacteria to breed on.

"There's about 10 times more bacteria with us than there are human cells," says Dr. Martin Klotz, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

According to studies, most of the bacteria in offices comes directly from workers via coughing, sneezing and shedding skin.

Scientists have also found germs in the workplace from the digestive tract and feces, which suggests not enough of us are washing with soap and water after visiting the restroom. 

"You remove 95 percent of microbes that don't belong there by just washing your hands," Klotz said.

While that can certainly help keep our keyboards cleaner, studies show that phones and chairs contain the most cooties.

Where you sit is where your sweat and bodily emissions simmer for hours at a toasty 98.6 degrees.

"Maybe men have more airflow there than women," Klotz said.

Every flatulent, or fart, results in a release of bacteria.

The other major source of office bacteria Klotz says most studies fail to recognize is the germs under your feet, festering with whatever you tracked in from outside.

"You have no idea what is in your carpet," Klotz said. "If you knew, you would rip it out immediately."

Before you spray down your office space with sanitizer or quarantine your male coworkers, keep in mind that bacteria biodiversity is not bad. Most germs are bodily defenders against the really harmful bugs.

Scientists found different ranges of bacteria depending on where you live and work in the country.

If your job requires extensive traveling, especially flying, Klotz says you are at the highest risk of picking up something your body is not prepared to cope with.

So when you are on the road traveling, be extra cautious and be sure to wash your hands frequently.

As far as your male coworkers, remember that bacteria don't prefer men or their messier desks, just the more spacious parking on their skin.

Additional Information:

Dr. Martin Klotz, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, says men and women differ on the types and distribution of bacteria they have. A person's age, diet and stress level determines what microorganisms are associated with their body. Klotz says men and women have different transitions from home to work. They often have different morning responsibilities like who takes care of the car, breakfast, kids, pets, etc. That could affect the type of bacteria a person brings into the office.

The following information was published online in a TIME Health & Family article entitled, Men vs. Women: Whose Offices Have More Bacteria? (http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/31/men-vs-women-whose-offices-have-more-bacteria/?iid=hl-article-mostpop1).

  • Researchers at San Diego State University and the University of Arizona swabbed chairs, phones, computer mice, computer keyboards and desktops at 90 randomly chosen offices in New York, San Francisco and Tucson, Ariz.
  • They found more than 500 types of bacteria populating the offices - with more in men's workspaces than in women's.
  • Most of the bacteria originated from the office workers themselves (coughing, sneezing and shedding of skin).
  • Bacteria from the digestive tract and found in feces was also discovered.
  • The chair and phone contain the most bacteria, according to the study.
  • Surfaces in men's offices had 10% to 20% more living bacteria than those used by women. Researchers speculate that's because men are larger with more skin surface area.
  • Other research has claimed the opposite, that women's offices have more germs because of make up use and the likelihood to store food in their desks.
  • A study done by researchers at Kimberly-Clark Professional found the following office place high contamination levels:
    • 75% of break room sink faucet handles
    • 48% of microwave door handles
    • 27% of keyboards
    • 26% of refrigerator door handles
    • 23% of water fountain buttons
    • 21% of vending machine buttons

The following information was published online in a Huffpost Living article entitled, Office Bacteria Rampant, More Concentrated in Men's Areas Than Women: Study (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/30/office-bacteria_n_1557285.html).

  • The arm rests of chairs and hand sets of phones had higher bacterial counts than desk tops or computer components (keyboards and mice).
  • Finding out what types are found in the average office environment was the impetus to do the study. There is no suggestion our microscopic companions put us at any risk.
  • Knowing what is normal could allow researchers to figure out what's going on in cases of "sick building" syndrome.
  • Bacteria found from the digestive tract suggests hand hygiene may not be ideal in some offices.
  • Differences between men and women could be hygiene related (washing hands, brushing teeth).
  • Differences could also be attributed to surface area. Men are bigger than women.
  • Bacteria could vary geographically in office spaces due to the ventilation systems in the buildings.

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