Your Office Is Teeming With Germs, Especially If You're Male

For every cubic meter of office air, there are billions of bacteria floating around. But how about on common surfaces like computer keyboards and telephones?

milton-office-space-movie-615.jpg
Twentieth Century Fox

After reading this, you might want to wipe down your office -- or at the very least, start washing your hands more often.

In a nationwide study of workplace bacteria, researchers have stumbled upon damning evidence that men are slobs who smear their germs all over the place. After taking swab samples of office desk chairs, keyboards, mice, and telephones, microbiologists from the University of Arizona found that men's offices have between 10 and 20 percent more germs than those of their female colleagues.

That's because men, who tend to be physically bigger, have a lot more bacteria to spread around, the scientists wrote in PLoS One:

[Men] have a correspondingly greater skin surface area, as well as nasal and oral cavities and, therefore, a proportionally greater surface area for bacterial colonization. Thus, in addition to being less hygienic, it is possible that men may also shed more bacteria into their surrounding environment.

But women, don't think you're off the hook. Among all the samples -- drawn from three different office buildings in New York, San Francisco, and Tuscon, Arizona -- chairs and telephones were the most germ-laden, followed by keyboards. That held true for both male and female office workers.

Other interesting findings: the environmental bacteria found in the Tuscon offices actually differed from those found elsewhere, a result the scientists attributed to Arizona's drier environment. But most of the microbes discovered came from human oral and nasal cavities, or from skin.

"We also found a surprising number of bacterial genera associated with the human digestive tract," the researchers wrote.

How those got there is a mystery.

Presented by

Brian Fung is the technology writer at National Journal. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and has written for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post.

The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it. They are repulsed by it."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."

Video

What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.

Video

Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.

Video

How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Health

Just In