Microbiologists: Your car's filthy

Consumer Reports News: April 28, 2011 03:38 PM

Here's something to chew on the next time you're chowing down while behind the steering wheel. You're eating in a spot that's roughly nine times dirtier than a public toilet seat.

That's what microbiologists at Queen Mary University of London, England found when they did a small research study for B&Q, a UK-based home and garden retailer.

On average, they found that the steering wheels, driver's seat floor, rear seats and gear shift lever contained an average of 700 bacteria per 10 square centimeters. The worst area: The car's trunk with 1,000 per 10 square centimeters. Public toilet seats, note the researchers, contain on average 80 bugs per 10 square centimeters.

Dr. Ron Cutler, director of Biomedical Science Degree Programmes at Queen Mary University, said:

While most of the bacteria were unlikely to cause health problems, some cars were found to play host to a number of potentially harmful bacterial species.

Those "potentially harmful" bugs include Bacillus cereus, which can cause food poisioning, and Arthobacter—bacteria often found in rotting organic matter.

The reason British cars have become such bacterial breeding grounds is fairly obvious: Driver neglect. According to the study, 37 percent of British drivers said they couldn't be bothered with cleaning their cars while three in 10 (about 28 percent) said they'd rather have their partner do it.

Said Dr. Cutler:

Most people clean their homes but many are neglecting to clean their cars and are driving round in vehicles which resemble a rubbish bin. A car is the perfect place for germs to breed, especially if you eat in it and leave litter or uneaten food around. To avoid potential health risks it would be wise to regularly clean your car both inside and out.

When was the last time you cleaned your car's interior? For tips, check out:

And tell us what you think. Are you surprised or concerned over this study? Weigh in below.

How clean is your car? Steering wheels have nine times more germs than public toilet seat [UK Daily Mirror]
Study: Steering wheels are nine times dirtier than public toilet seats [Autoblog]

Paul Eng

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