Washing your hands frequently is usually enough to ward off harmful bacteria and prevent dangerous infections. However, several studies are finding that dangerous bacteria and fungi can grow in unexpected places, like a kitchen sink or on an unused paper towel.
Recently, researchers from Penn State took swabs from 500 sinks in eight states and analyzed the bacteria and fungus in the samples. The fungus fusarium, which has caused dangerous infections, was found in 66 percent of the sinks sampled. Though some of the fusarium strains found are not harmful to humans, about 70 percent of the fusarium found is associated with human infections. The fungus is particularly dangerous because it is resistant to anti-fungal medicines, making the infections especially hard to treat.
Additionally, a separate study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that unused paper towels from public bathrooms frequently carry bacteria, particularly if they’re made from recycled material. The bacteria the researchers found have caused food poisoning and infection in the past. The study concluded that individuals with weakened immune systems should avoid paper towels in public restrooms and use air dryers when available.