Airports are packed with people coming and going at all hours of the day. Travelers, like all of us, are filthy humans that carry all manner of germs with them as they head to their vacations and business trips, and some of those germs inevitably end up being left in the airport. A recent study published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal attempted to map the location of germs in the average airport, and the biggest virus hotspot probably isn’t what you’re guessing.
Top guesses for the dirtiest airport spots are easy to list — door handles, check-in desks, bathrooms — but none of those actually came in the top spot. According to the study, which took samples from 90 locations around an airport, the filthiest place of all was the TSA security bins.
Yep, those dull gray bins that you toss your keys, wallet, and belt in as you make your way through the security metal detectors are actually the grossest place in the entire airport. They have more viruses than even the bathroom toilet seats, and the researchers found all manner of nastiness on them.
Among the various viruses that were found are those linked to the common cold and seasonal flu, and approximately 10% of all surfaces tested had at least one virus present when analyzed. Some surfaces that you might expect to harbor a ton of germs were actually fairly clean, such as handrails which only popped positive on one out of seven samples. The bathrooms were also remarkably tidy, with no viruses detected on samples taken from the toilet area.
It’s important to note that this study only focused on a single airport in Finland. There’s obviously a good chance that whatever you local airport of choice is, it will be either better or worse than what this study reveals. Nevertheless, the fact that security bins turned out to be so darn filthy actually makes a lot of sense. I mean, when have you ever seen a TSA agent or airport employee spraying them down with disinfectant or cleaner? Never? I thought not.