ZipJet, a dry cleaning specialist, conducted research to better understand the bacteria commuters are exposed to on their daily transport routes through London. With a keen interest in cleanliness and hygiene, ZipJet carried out the research in common modes of public transport known to harbour potentially harmful micro-organisms. 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 micro-organisms.
“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.”
To find out the full list of bacteria and pathogens and locations swabbed, visit the results page: www.zipjet.co.uk/dirty-cities-index.
How clean is the London commute?
According to the ZipJet report, here is a summary of the findings:
• 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.
• In comparison, 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.
• The Victoria Station bench was the second most contaminated location on the commute. There were high levels of spore forming gram positive rods and non-fermenting 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.
For all other findings go to the ZipJet results page: www.zipjet.co.uk/dirty-cities-index.
“Here at ZipJet, we were surprised to see the levels and variety of bacteria present on our usual journeys to and from the office,” said Florian Färber, founder and managing director of ZipJet. “But it’s reassuring to know how easily we can protect ourselves from contamination.”