NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The next time you’re headed to work, you may want to think twice before grabbing that subway pole or Citi Bike with your bare hands.
“It really is gross,” Craig Ward said.
Writer and artist Craig Ward is talking about the New York City subway system.
“When you’re holding on in the subway, you’re shaking hands with 10,000 people,” he said.
Ward collected bacteria samples from all 22 subway lines and turned his findings into a provocative art project, while having them analyzed.
Some were benign.
“A lot of mold on the Q and a little bit on the Z as well,” he said.
Others were questionable.
“R, never found out what the red dot was,” he said.
And some slightly worrisome.
“The pink to red colonies are E. coli,” he said.
He shared his research with the team at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, who did their own study as well.
“Our study was driven out of curiosity about what’s present on the surfaces touched by 5.5-million people every day,” Dr. Christopher Mason said.
Their findings indicated that while things may seem nasty, we were generally safe.
“For example, E. coli is in all of our guts, but it’s not the virulent strain of E. coli. Just cause it comes from bathrooms doesn’t mean they’re dangerous for normal people,” he said.
There’s more than the subway involved in a daily commute.
Victor Castaman of Hygenia looked at other high contact areas with a device that usually measures cleanliness in food and healthcare industries.
“It’s going to show us the amount of organic materials on anything that’s living or once living,” he said.
A swab from a Citi Bike handlebar came in at 1,965.
“That is not a good number to have,” Castaman said.
Castaman said the benchmark for a safe clean surface is about 200. He liked the result from a black car.
“Forty-three, very nice,” he said.
Not as much from a cab with a 667 reading.
A daily commute might mean stopping at Starbucks or the bank where Castaman found readings of 408 and 429.
Back underground, he also tested Metro Card machines, and a food court table.
Experts agreed that a daily commute may be dirty, but it’s not going to kill you. The best advice is to always wash your hands.
“We are the entire world bunched into one little spot. It’s always good to be cautious,” he said.
Experts added that metal surfaces generally see a smaller concentration of bacteria while wood and plastic hold more.
Overall, rubber gloves aren’t necessary, but wipes and hand sanitizer are never a bad idea.