Mar 10, 2016
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Of public transportation systems in five U.S. cities, BART ranked as the second grimiest in a new study.

Authors of a study said a team was sent to gather bacteria samples from the handrails of trains in New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, including those on BART cars.

Handrails were swabbed on three trains in each of the city’s systems.

The subway in NYC, which sees the most riders, turned up the most germs — a “shocking average” of 2 million colony-forming units (CFU), which refers to the number of viable bacteria cell per square inch, the study states. Boston’s system, on the other hand, turned up a scant average of about 10 CFU per square inch.

BART had 483 CFU per square inch, good for second place, the Chicago “L” train was third with 180 and the Washington, D.C. Metro had 30.

The study’s authors point out that not all bacteria are bad. And to put the results into perspective, the study points out that children’s toys, pet toys and classroom keyboards average far greater levels of bacteria than BART’s results (see figures below).

But some bacteria can be harmful. BART along with Washington D.C.’s Metro “predominantly hosted gram-positive cocci, which are a common cause of skin infections,” the study’s authors state. BART along with the L-train in Chicago also contained Bacillus, which can cause a range of infections, including respiratory illnesses.

The study’s authors aren’t saying their findings should cause passengers to wear chemical suits and gas masks. Rather, they  offer basic recommendations such as avoid touching surfaces or washing hands after rides.



About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.