According to a new study conducted at the UK’s University of Nottingham and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, airports are crawling with germs. This is something can safely be assumed for any place where large groups of people gather, but some of the specific findings were especially disturbing.
The study, published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal, details some of the most germ-filled places in airports, finding that the plastic security trays are ground zero for the spread of germs amongst passengers.
Researchers closely monitored the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland during the winter of 2016, constantly testing for germs on surfaces through the building. They found evidence that at least 10% of the surfaces in the airport tested positive for viruses and germs, which is a surprisingly low number considering the rest of the study.
Some germ hotspots listed in the study were passport checking counters, shop payment terminals, staircase rails, children’s play areas and of course, the security area.
Oddly enough, the restrooms in the airport were much cleaner the security areas and other parts of the building.
Jonathan Van Tram, Professor of Health Protection at the University of Nottingham, said that this is a sign that awareness about hotspot areas can reduce the spread of germs.
“This study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread. People can help to minimize contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve at all times but especially in public places,” Tram says.
Niina Ikonen from the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, who also worked on the study, said that this new information could help inspire better building design in the future.
“The results also provide new ideas for technical improvements in airport design and refurbishment,” Ikonen said.
As a solution to this problem, the researchers suggested that hotpots be sanitized more often, with more opportunities available for people to wash their hands.
“Hand sanitization opportunities where intense, repeat touching of surfaces takes place such as immediately before and after security screening,” were suggested in the conclusion of the study.
The security areas should receive extra special attention from the airport staff since these are areas that passengers have no choice but to pass through.
Earlier this year, a number of doctors began advising that travelers change their socks after passing through airport security because it could be very easy to pick up fungus and viruses from steeping on the same mats that millions of other people have stepped on without shoes.
Dr. Michael J. Trepal, vice president for academic affairs and dean at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine,
“In a high-traffic area, the number of people per hour going through a checkpoint is greater at an airport than at a health club, and theoretically, the more you expose the skin to exogenous pathogens, the more likely you are to be infected. In some cases, you could realistically walk 30 to 40 feet without shoes,” Trepal said.
“It just goes to good bodily hygiene, like washing your hands. Try to minimize barefoot contact with foreign surfaces, and try to wear socks [inside your shoes] if you want an extra level of precaution,” he added.
According to a 2015 study published by Travelmath, you should be careful of your surroundings once you get on the plane as well. That study found that airplanes were filled with germs, with some of the worst areas being the tray table and the air vents.
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.