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Sponges, Dishrags Called Home For Toxic Germs

Wed., Aug. 23, 1995

Sponges and dishrags could be harmful to your health.

Cleaning cloths and sponges collected from household kitchens in five major cities were home to germs that could cause a smorgasbord of illnesses including food poisoning and skin ailments, a researcher found.

“It may be the most germ-laden area in the kitchen - the sponge or the dishrag,” said Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

His advice: “Use paper towels because you throw them away.”

College students went door-to-door in Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and New York to collect sponges and washcloths that were sent to Gerba and three of his graduate students.

The team randomly selected and tested 100 of the 200 items sent in.

Twenty specimens carried germs that cause salmonella food poisoning, urinary tract infections, skin ailments or other illnesses.

In addition to using paper towels, Gerba advises:

Wash hands thoroughly while cooking.

Buy antibacterial sponges. Ordinary sponges have 450 times more germs than antibacterial ones.

Look for dishwashing soap and spray cleaners that carry the words “antibacterial,” “kills germs” and “disinfects.”

Tags: health

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