Bacteria on Airplanes Remains Long After Passengers Leave

airplane seat and windowBy Emily Murray

With Memorial Day weekend travel ahead of us, a recent study regarding the amount of bacteria on airplanes might just have you doubling up on your hand sanitizer supply.

It comes as no surprise that germs are present on airplanes. In fact, germs are everywhere you look. As referenced in a recent TIME article about this study, the average person sheds 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells each and every hour. When you consider that skin cells inherently carry bacteria and that 1% to 2% are carriers of MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus), this is rather frightening. When you take your seat on the plane, you are sitting in thousands of shed skin cells and inevitably, bacteria. 

The study conducted by researchers at Auborn University was an attempt to answer the question, “does bacteria stay around on the plane long enough to infect the next passenger?” In order to answer this, researchers knowingly spread some of the most dangerous bacteria on common plane surfaces like the fold down trays, seat pockets and toilet handles to see how long they would survive without a human host.

One scary discovery was that MRSA thrived in seat pockets and could live for up to 168 hours! E. coli on the other hand could live in the rubber armrest for 96 hours. They also discovered that the more porous the surface, the longer bacteria could survive.

The results showed the following regarding the germiest places on the plane:

*Seat pocket – 8 days

*Arm rest – 7 days

*Leather sear – 7 days

*Plastic window shade – 3 days

*Plastic tray table – 3 days

*Steel toilet handle – 2 days

Researchers hope that these sobering statistics might prompt the airline industry to improve their current sanitation practices. With Memorial Day travel right around the corner, keep this study in mind and be sure to sanitize the surfaces around you as well as your hands prior to eating to help prevent the spread of bacteria the best that you can.