Bathroom Reading: Good, Clean Fun

ByABC News
June 11, 2002, 11:10 AM

June 4, 2002 -- -- Say what you will about reading in the bathroom, it's not dirty even if you're reading Playboy.

According to University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba, the average desktop is crawling with 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Your telephone and computer keyboard, in particular, are germ havens.

"Think about it: Desktops are rarely cleaned," Gerba says. "If you're eating at your desk, it's a veritable cafeteria for bacteria."

With June ushering in National Bathroom Reading Week, Gerba's research comes as welcome news to the millions of Americans who use their workplace commode as a library.

It turns out that newspapers and magazines aren't bacteria-friendly. Gerba says you're more likely to be contaminated by E. coli or fecal matter when you touch the sink faucet handles.

"The toilet seat has gotten a bad rap," he says. "I'm not saying you should take your office work into the bathroom or eat your lunch there. But it might be better for your health."

Officer: Please Explain Why Youre Kneeling in the Mens Room

Gerba has spent years investigating public potties. If you think it's hard work for a microbiologist to do research in bus station bathrooms, you're right. "I was once kneeling behind a bathroom stall on some occasions and folks called the police, thinking I'm doing God knows what," he says.

"Then I have to stand up and tell the officer, 'I'm a scientist,' and he's like, 'Sure, you are.' "

In one study, Gerba and a team of other researchers attached microprocessors to toilet paper dispensers in public restrooms all over the world, concluding that Americans, by far, use more than toilet paper than any other people seven sheets of TP for each trip to the bathroom.

The British use the least. "It could have something to do with the coarse quality of their paper," Gerba says.

The Germans and French fell somewhere in the middle. Bathroom Advertisers Sitting Pretty

If you're one of the millions of Americans who retreat to the restroom for some peace of mind, enjoy it while you can. Advertisers are knocking at the stall door, looking for a truly captive audience.