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Water Bottles: More Germy Than Toilet Seats?

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You may be doing your body good by taking that morning run or working up a sweat at the gym. But when you also work up a thirst and take a swig from your trusty refillable water bottle you may actually taking a swig of harmful germs.

New research shows that an incredible amount of bacteria — including E. Coli and salmonella — may be lurking in and on your water bottle.

Laboratory tests by Treadmill Reviews, a Minneapolis-based firm, analyzed 12 water bottles used by athletes and not washed for a week and found they had such high levels of bacteria that drinking from them would be like “licking a toilet seat.”

They tested four types of reusable bottles: A slide-top, screw-top, squeeze-top and straw-top. The researchers evaluated the amount of contamination in terms of “colony forming units,” or CFUs, of bacteria per square centimeter. Here are their findings:

  • The bottles contained an average of 300,000 CFU of bacteria. That’s six times as much bacteria as you’d find on your pet’s food bowl. And much of the bacteria was the kind that makes you sick.
  • The slide-top bottles contained the highest amount of bacteria: A whopping 933,340 CFU. They also had the most gram-positive germs which have been linked to skin infections, pneumonia and blood poisoning.
  • Squeeze-top bottles were next with 162,000 CFU followed by screw-top vessels with 160,000 CFU. These also housed 99 percent of the harmful bacteria.
  • Straw-top bottles were the clear winners with only 25 CFU. But that’s only 2 CFU less than the average home toilet seat. It is thought that these are safer because water drips down to the bottom of the straw rather than hang out at the top attracting moisture-loving germs.

“Based on our test results, we suggest opting for a straw-top bottle, both for the prevalence of bacteria and the lack of harmful germs,” says the fitness Website. They suggested that stainless steel water bottles are a better choice than plastic which may also contain Bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA, a chemical that can lead to cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses.

But by far the best option, says the website Aquasana.com, is to use glass water bottles and run them through the dishwasher or wash thoroughly by hand after every use.

By comparison, other household germy hot spots include:

  • Toothbrush holder, 331,848 CFU.
  • Pet bowl, 47,383 CFU.
  • Kitchen sink, 3,191 CFI.
  • Cutting board, 6.8 CFU.

“Harmful bacteria and viruses lurk in moist locations such as the kitchen and bathroom and can be easily transported into your mouth by using an old toothbrush, sponge or other common household item,” Dr. Donald Marks tells Newsmax Health.

The New Jersey-based infectious disease expert, who also holds a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, makes the following recommendations to avoid home contamination:

Sponges and wash clothes. You may think you are cleaning cups and saucers with these items but they can contain thousands of bacteria per square inch so you’re just spreading germs around. Put wash clothes in the washing machine and run the sponges through the dishwasher. Better still, replace sponges every two weeks,

Kitchen drain. Your kitchen drain contains more germs than your bathroom toilet. With the hot water running, pour a little baking soda down the drain daily.

Kitchen towels. A recent study showed that 7 percent of kitchen towels were contaminated with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Wash them in hot water twice weekly.

Refrigerator water filters. These filters collect bacteria and mold over time. The rule of thumb is to change them twice annually. If you have a large family of water drinkers, every three months is a better time frame.

Toothbrush. Your toothbrush is a magnet for bacteria that can come from toilet spray, splashes from the sink when you wash your hands, or from your own mouth. Replace it every three or four months and never share a toothbrush. You may consider soaking it in an antibacterial solution after every use.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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