Airport security trays are dirtier than airport toilets, new study finds

Self-cleaning trays may be on the horizon across the world.

  • Airport security trays carry pathogens that can cause respiratory illnesses.
  • A recent study in Helsinki confirms that TSA security check points are the most-likely place to "catch something."
  • In light of the research, airport trays might eventually be replaced with self-cleaning ones.

This isn't exactly a case of scrolling through TSA's Instagram account to see what sort of things someone tried to take through airport security — be it a chainsaw or a zombie-like monster featured in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 — but it's certainly something that can grab the attention, even if this isn't your first time reading about it. An article published in BMC Infectious Diseases at the end of August disclosed a concerning finding regarding the plastic trays used in TSA checks. They carried influenza, the human corona virus, rhino virus, and other illness-prompting pathogens.

The researchers took samples after peak hours, and looked at 90 surfaces at the airport in Helsinki, where roughly 12 million people pass through every year. They took eight samples from the trays over the course of three weeks. When the results came back, they found that half of the samples carried some kind of respiratory disease. In comparison, none of the samples from the toilets at the airport returned anything so dire.

Lest we forgot: toilet seats aren't typically that dirty. If anything, the floor of a bathroom is probably dirtier than the seat itself. As a matter of fact, the likelihood of getting a disease from a toilet seat, according to William Dampier explains over at Gizmodo, is "very small." It should also be noted that the viral loads on the trays themselves, researchers discussed about the study, were probably not enough to infect an individual.

Nevertheless, the new study continues a trend of previous studies that security checkpoint lines are the most likely place where one could catch something — if one does ends up catching something. If studies like this continue to confirm what we're slowly realizing, then we may see self-cleaning trays spread across the world.

Self-cleaning trays were first deployed at the Akron-Canton Airport, per reports, using nanotechnology — the handles and the lining of the trays are cleaned every time the trays are exposed to light. Every 90 days, the handles and lining are replaced, and the trays are good for 90 more days after that. This new measure suggests that the issue of dirty trays may already be getting better.

All this said, it's still probably not a bad idea to wash your hands after going through the airport security checkpoint.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

The dos and don’ts of helping a drug-addicted person recover

How you talk to people with drug addiction might save their life.

  • Addiction is a learning disorder; it's not a sign that someone is a bad person.
  • Tough love doesn't help drug-addicted people. Research shows that the best way to get people help is through compassion, empathy and support. Approach them as an equal human being deserving of respect.
  • As a first step to recovery, Maia Szalavitz recommends the family or friends of people with addiction get them a complete psychiatric evaluation by somebody who is not affiliated with any treatment organization. Unfortunately, warns Szalavitz, some people will try to make a profit off of an addicted person without informing them of their full options.
Keep reading Show less

10 science photos that made history and changed minds

These photos of scientific heroes and accomplishments inspire awe and curiosity.

Surprising Science
  • Science has given humanity an incalculable boost over the recent centuries, changing our lives in ways both awe-inspiring and humbling.
  • Fortunately, photography, a scientific feat in and of itself, has recorded some of the most important events, people and discoveries in science, allowing us unprecedented insight and expanding our view of the world.
  • Here are some of the most important scientific photos of history:
Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less