Those Airport Security Bins Are Even Filthier Than You Thought

Henrietta Strickland
September 9, 2018

A new study say the bins at security check points - the same ones you throw your phone and vehicle keys on, that everyone has to handle - are the dirtiest part of the airport.

A scientific investigation has found that the plastic trays at security checks harbour the highest level of viruses of any surface in the airport.

Four of the eight samples contained the rhinovirus or adenovirus, which both cause cold-like symptoms. Niina Ikonen, a virology expert with the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, said, "The presence of microbes in the environment of an airport has not been investigated previously".

"They found evidence of viruses on 10 percent of the surfaces tested and most commonly on the plastic trays that are circulated along the passenger queue at the hand luggage X-ray checkpoint". "These boxes typically cycle with high frequency to subsequent passengers, and are typically seized with a wide palm surface area and strong grip".

And the preponderance of viruses on airport screening bins may be even more cause for concern among Americans, who are increasingly encountering TSA screeners instructing them to empty their food and snack items straight into the plastic bins.

Viral contamination of standard passenger pathways and procedures in an airport - such as security screening trays - "have the potential to be especially problematic if a severe pathogen with an indirect transmission mechanism were to pose a threat for worldwide spread", the researchers note.

The researchers hope that their findings would encourage airports to regularly clean these plastic trays and adopt precautions to prevent pandemics.

They took surface and air samples from the playground, pharmacy, handrails, and passport control points.

The study published in the journal BioMed Central Infectious Diseases on August 29 revealed that at least one respiratory virus, including influenza A and B, was found in 9 out of 90 surfaces inside the airport.

In these cases, the scientists concluded, the best approach might be the simplest one: a good old-fashioned wipedown.

"The team set out to identify and quantify the respiratory viruses on frequently-touched surfaces in airports", said the University of Nottingham statement.

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