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Your car hosts more germs than your toilet seat, research shows

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Cars are not only filthy on the outside, polluting the atmosphere with CO2 emissions — they are also filthy on the inside, more so than you possibly imagine.

The inside of a car can host significantly higher levels of germs than the average toilet seat, according to a study by researchers at Aston University in Birmingham, UK.

Researchers collected swab samples from the insides of five used cars and compared them with swabs from two toilets.

In most cases, they say they found high levels of bacteria in the cars, equaling or exceeding the bacterial contamination found on the toilets.

The highest concentrations of bacteria were discovered in the trunk of the car.

Next, it was the driver’s seat, then the gearstick, back seat, and dashboard.

The steering wheels had the lowest amounts of bacteria of all the areas the researchers tested. They say that’s likely because people have used more hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic than they did before.

E. coli in the trunk

Jonathan Cox, a microbiologist and lead author of the study, told DW they found large traces of E. coli in the trunk, or boot, of the cars.

A man puts packs of bottled water into the trunk of his car

The trunk of your car hosts higher amounts of bacteria than the average toilet seat, research shows

“We tend to care a little bit less about cleanliness in the boot of our cars because it’s the main place we put things to transport them from A to B,” said Cox.

People often transport pets or muddy shoes in the trunk, said Cox, and that may explain the high levels of E. coli. The E. coli bacteria can cause serious food poisoning.

It’s also become common for people to have loose fruit and vegetables rolling around the boots of their cars, said Cox. That’s been the case in the UK since recent campaigns started encouraging people to reduce their use of disposable plastic bags from supermarkets.

“That’s one way we can introduce these fecal coliforms into our homes and into our kitchens and potentially introduce them into our bodies,” Cox said. “The purpose of the study is to create some awareness around that.”

A benchmark in surface bacteria studies

It’s a reminder that just because a surface appears clean, it doesn’t mean that it is clean.

Phones are no better than cars: They have also been found to be dirtier than toilets. Some studies suggest phones are up to ten times dirtier than toilet seats.

And money’s even worse. Researchers at New York University have found that the surface of a single banknote can host about 3,000 types of bacteria.

Toilet seats are often used in studies of this nature — but why? It’s about public perception.

“It gives people a comparison,” said Cox. “Most of us bleach our toilets, probably on a daily basis, but when do we ever bleach our cars? We don’t.”

That attitude helps explain the results of the study, Cox said. While people know they have to clean their toilets, they don’t think of their car interiors in the same way.

“The purpose of the study is not to scare people. It’s just to get people thinking that the bacteria in their cars is not necessarily where they first thought, and also to get them thinking that it may be worth cleaning their cars on the inside as well as on the outside once in a while,” said Cox.

 

 



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Indian lunar orbiter hit by heat rise

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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) — Scientists have switched off several on-board instruments to halt rising temperatures inside India’s first unmanned lunar spacecraft.

For India the $80 million mission puts the country on the inside track of a fast-developing Asian space race.

The spacecraft carrying India’s first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, lifts off from Sriharikota.

Mylswamy Annadurai, the project director for the lunar mission, told CNN that temperatures onboard Chandrayaan-1 had risen to 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit).

The increase occurred as the craft, the moon — which it is orbiting — and the sun lined up, a phenomenon which Annadurai said was not unexpected and which would likely last until the end of December.

“We have switched off the systems (aboard) that are not needed to be on,” Annadurai said, ruling out the possibility of damage and adding that the temperature was now down to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

Heat on board the Chandrayaan-1 should not exceed 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), Annadurai said — but insisted the orbiter is designed to withstand up to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit).

The Chandrayaan-1 — Chandrayaan means “moon craft” in Sanskrit — was successfully launched from southern India on October 22. VideoWatch the launch of India’s first lunar mission »

Its two-year mission is to take high-resolution, three-dimensional images of the moon’s surface, especially the permanently shadowed polar regions. It also will search for evidence of water or ice and attempt to identify the chemical composition of certain lunar rocks, the group said.

Earlier this month the Moon Impact Probe detached from Chandrayaan-1 and successfully crash-landed on the moon’s surface.

Officials say that the TV-size probe, which is adorned with a painting of the Indian flag, hit the moon’s surface at a speed of 5,760 kilometers per hour (3,579 mph).

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It transmitted data to Chandrayaan-1 ahead of impact but was not intended to be retrieved after that.

Chandrayaan-1 is carrying payloads from the United States, the European Union and Bulgaria. India plans to share the data from the mission with other programs, including NASA.

All About India • NASA

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Inspiration for 'Contact' still listening

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From a remote valley in Northern California, Jill Tarter is listening to the universe.

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Shuttle lands at California air base

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(CNN) — Space shuttle Endeavour landed safely Sunday afternoon at California’s Edwards Air Force Base after NASA waved off two opportunities for a Florida landing because of poor weather.

NASA opted to land the shuttle in California on Sunday, because of bad weather at Kennedy Space Center.

Endeavour glides in for a landing Sunday at California’s Edwards Air Force Base.

The shuttle, steered by commander Christopher Ferguson, landed at 1:25 p.m., ending a mission that lasted more than two weeks.

Wind, rain and reports of thunderstorms within 30 miles of the shuttle landing facility at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center prompted NASA to cancel the landing attempts there. Those had been scheduled for 1:19 p.m. and 2:54 p.m. ET.

After determining Monday’s weather forecast at Kennedy Space Center was equally unpromising, flight controllers decided they would try to land the shuttle and its seven astronauts at Edwards AFB, about 100 miles from Los Angeles, California, where Sunday’s forecast was sunny.

Flight controllers prefer landings at Kennedy Space Center because of cost and schedule. NASA has estimated it costs about $1.7 million to bring a shuttle home to Kennedy Space Center from California. VideoWatch Endeavour’s Sunday landing in California »

It also takes at least a week to get the shuttle ready for the trip, but schedule is not a major factor for the Endeavour; it is not scheduled to fly again until May.

Endeavour’s 15-day mission to the international space station began on November 14 and included four spacewalks.

During that time, the crew brought key pieces — including exercise equipment, more sleeping berths and a urine recycling system — for a project to double the capacity of the station from three in-house astronauts to six.

The recycling system was installed to turn urine and sweat from the astronauts into drinking water.

Other modules are scheduled to arrive on a February shuttle flight. The goal of expanding the station’s capacity to six astronauts is expected to be reached by the summer.

The crew also worked on a joint that helps generate power for the space station. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen spent hours cleaning and lubricating the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, which is designed to allow the solar panels on the left side of the station to rotate and track the sun.

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The astronauts also removed and replaced several trundle bearing assemblies.

The mission went according to plan, despite a minor interruption on the first spacewalk when a grease gun in Stefanyshyn-Piper tool’s bag leaked, coating everything inside with a film of lubricant. While she was trying to clean it up, the bag — with $100,000 in tools — floated away.

CNN’s Kate Tobin and Miles O’Brien contributed to this report.

All About Space Shuttle Endeavour • NASA • Kennedy Space Center

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