ZipJet, dry cleaning specialists, conducted research to better understand the bacteria commuters are exposed to on their daily transport routes through the city. With a keen interest in cleanliness and hygiene, ZipJet carried out the research in common modes of public transport known to harbour potentially harmful microorganisms. Although most bacteria are harmless to healthy individuals, some can have a negative effect on those with vulnerable immune systems. The study shows that commuters sometimes share seats with bacteria originating from soil, stagnant water, saliva and even faeces.
Samples were taken from locations where passengers’ clothes and hands frequently come into contact with shared spaces during their daily travels. For example, from a bench in London Victoria station, five seats and hand rails on the London underground, five chairs of red double decker buses, the backseat of five Black Cabs, and the backseat of five Uber cars. The same process* was repeated for commuter locations in Paris and Berlin. The swabs** were sent to Limbach Analytics, a laboratory in Mannheim, where the samples were processed by introducing microbiological methods designed to identify different microorganisms.
“You can easily stay clean and healthy when using public transport,” said Constanze Wendt, Specialist in Hygiene and Microbiology at Limbach Analytics GmbH. “After travelling, you can avoid contamination simply by washing your hands and washing clothes thoroughly to avoid a buildup of bacteria.”
How Clean Is The London Commute?
The dirtiest (most contaminated) mode of public transport in London is the Black Cab
The seats were found to have a high concentration of Enterobacteriaceae and Enterococci, pathogens associated with salmonella, e-coli and fecal contamination. Bacteria originating from saliva associated with pneumococcal infections was also found, and the seat was home to a high level of bacteria usually found in stagnant water and soil.
The Uber was found to be the cleanest (least contaminated) mode of transport in the city
No pathogens associated with fecal matter or saliva were found in the vehicle and, the overall level of bacteria was low.
A seat on the London Underground was surprisingly found to be cleaner than a seat in the Black Cab, but still quite dirty
High levels of contaminants originating from the mouth and human gut were found such as Streptococcus and Enterobacteriaceae, strains of bacteria associated with food poisoning, UTIs and gastrointestinal infections.
The Double Decker Red Bus was the second cleanest way to traverse the city
There was a high level of non-forming gram negative rods, typically associated with stagnant water and pneumonia in special circumstances There was also a low level of bacteria typically found in soil on the seats, indicating someone may have been ignoring the “no feet on the seat” rule.
Victoria Station Bench was the second most contaminated location on the commute
There were high levels of Spore forming gram positive rods and Nonfermenting gram negative rods. However, none of the more harmful pathogens, such as Enterococci and Enterobacteria, were found.
Result Trends From Paris, Berlin and London
- Taxis in London, Paris and Berlin were all found to be highly contaminated with bacteria
- Buses in each city were found to be a reliably clean way to travel
- The Berlin Bus was the cleanest way to travel overall, followed by the London Uber and the Berlin U-Bahn
- The Paris Station Bench was the most contaminated swabbed location, followed by the London Black Cab, and the Berlin Taxi
To find out the full list of bacteria and pathogens and locations swabbed, go to the ZipJet results page (www.zipjet.co.uk/dirty-cities-index)
Florian Färber, Founder & Managing Director of ZipJet commented: “Here at ZipJet, we were surprised to see the levels and variety of bacteria present on our usual journeys to and from the office. But it’s reassuring to know how easily we can protect ourselves from contamination.”
Nearly all the microorganisms detected in this study may cause infection under special circumstances, such as through contamination of an open wound or if the pathogen comes into contact with an immunocompromised person. Some of the organisms found suggest fecal contamination (enterococcus). The presence of enterococcus is generally a reliable indicator that more pathogenic organisms not detectable by the methodology associated with human waste, such as viruses, are present. Therefore, it is suggested you take these five basic precautions to prevent infection to yourself or others:
- Wash your hands regularly after using public transport, especially before eating
- Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when sneezing
- Wash your hands after touching animals
- Clean work surfaces, such as your office desk, regularly
- Keep clothes clean by washing at 30 degrees
ZipJet is an online laundry and dry cleaning service in London. In addition to its dry clean and laundry service, ZipJet offers an excellent ironing service, wash & fold service and duvet cleaning. ZipJet is the easiest, quickest, and most convenient way to do your laundry, offering a convenient service pickup and drop off service via your mobile app, currently available in the cities of London, Berlin and Paris.
*Tests were conducted on February 6, 2017 – first two tests: from 8am to 10am and the other three tests subjects from 5pm to 11pm.
**ZipJet used the same swab for all five subjects tested in each transport category.