The dirtiest thing you’ll encounter at the airport isn’t the toilet seat. Nor is the tray tables or even your sniffling seat mate. According to a study from the University of Nottingham and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, it’s those plastic security trays that are the filled with the most infectious diseases.
The research was published in BMC Infectious Diseases, which found 10 respiratory viruses including the flu and common cold lingering on various surfaces through the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland. Scientists visited several times during the 2015-16 flu season and collected germ samples at various times of the day.
As it turns out, the bins that hold your cell phone, shoes, purse, coat, and other belongings that need scanned for security, had more germs than any other area tested — including toilet, elevator buttons, and even the flight check-in kiosks.
The virus found could easily cause you to catch cold, flu or even bronchitis.
The findings make sense because unlike other areas, nearly every passenger — and even employees — are expected to use the bins. Add that to the fact bins are rarely cleaned like other surfaces you’d expect to be dirtier, like the bathroom.
Researchers suggest that airports could more frequently disinfect the bins and offer passengers hand sanitizer before beginning the process.
This is, of course, just one airport, but it’s not like airports across the world go out of their way to sanitize security trays. So it’s a good reminder to wash your hands after security, and definitely before eating anything, to reduce the chances that your travel plans will land you with an unexpected illness.