New Study Finds That Airport Security Trays Carry More Cold Germs Than Toilets

Image of person going through airport security with trays in front vision

Think about all the places that might be filled with germs: Your cell phone, a kitchen sink, and of course a toilet—all of these harbor tons of ickiness for sure. But one of the most germy places of all lies in a kind of unexpected spot: Airport security trays.

You know, those trays you take to put your belongings in to scan before going through the metal detector at an airport? They contain an insane amount of germs, including traces of rhinovirus, the source responsible for the common cold, according to a new study published in BMC Infectious Diseases.

In the study, rhinovirus was found on about half the luggage trays they tested, which is more than on any of the other surfaces they tested. And the craziest part about it is that rhinovirus was found on the trays, but not on the airport toilets! How is that even possible?

Well, I suppose it makes complete sense when you actually think about it. Think about how many items go into those trays a day: Phones, shoes, purses—things that already house tons of germs, plus people’s hands, as well as worker’s hands, are all over the trays. And we’re sure that they don’t get cleaned or sterilized as often as they should, or much at all—surely less than toilets do.

All right, so we can’t do much to prevent the spread of germs on these trays, but hopefully this study gives airports insight into where their most germy places are, and start paying more attention to their trays.

In the mean time, here are a few ways to prevent the spread of germs the next time you’re walking though airport security.

First, wash your hands often and properly. It’s the most over-given piece of advice, but for good reason. Wash your hands after you use the restroom, before eating, after handling raw meats and/or any items that may have germs on them.

Also, keep in mind that simply washing your hands isn’t as important as washing your hands thoroughly. That means using soap and water and scrubbing your hands at least long enough for you to finish singing “Happy birthday.”

It’s also a good idea to always carry hand sanitizer with you, in case you’re not near a sink and need to wash your hands.

In addition, always cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, preferably into a tissue or your sleeve. If you do cough or sneeze into your hands, be sure to wash or sanitize them as soon as possible. This is especially important in a public place, like that of an airport.

“These simple precautions can help prevent pandemics and are most important in crowded areas like airports that have a high volume of people traveling to and from many different parts of the world,” Niina Ikonen, a virology expert at the Finnish institute, who was involved in the study.

Have you ever thought about many germs could be on your airport security tray? Ho do you limit the spread of germs and sickness in public places like airports?