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Germ Proof Your Home
Tips from the experts

7/30/2009

MARIETTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Jake Austin, 10 months old, loves playing on the ground. On a typical February morning, Jake and his 4-year-old brother, Hank, are rolling around on the family's shiny hardwood floor, the same floor where they and their parents track in dirt from outside every day.

Hank Austin, bottom, and his brother, Jake, play together on the floor. What about germs?

The boys' parents, Laura, 28, and Clint, 36, worry that they and their children are constantly getting exposed to bacteria around the house.

"The thing that concerns me most is the baby crawling on the floor," Laura Austin said. "He licks the floor, so there is no telling what he is picking up."

CNN used the Austin house, in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, as a test case to see just how germy a four-person family home might be. Microbiologist Zehava Eichenbaum, associate professor at Georgia State University, came armed with swabs to test the hot spots for a variety of bacteria.

As it turns out, Eichenbaum did not find anything to be too concerned about in the Austin home. There were bacteria almost everywhere, but they were mostly the benign kind found in a normal environment. While most of these microorganisms are commonly found in or on our body, some that were found on the Austins' floor can produce disease -- such as shigella, staphylococcus pneumonia, or staphylococcus aureus -- if they are inhaled, ingested or touch skin breaks, Eichenbaum said. Still, nobody has gotten sick.

She offered tips on maintaining a healthy home, while not overdoing it. Having some bacteria is actually a good thing, experts say.

Normally, the most bacteria-filled place in a home is the kitchen sink, Eichenbaum said. Think about all the dirt and uneaten food that winds up in it. The sink is even less clean than the toilet seat. Learn how to safely navigate a public restroom

You can put bleach in it, but bacteria will still accumulate. The best solution: Don't let food you eat raw, such as fruits and vegetables, touch the sink surface before you eat them. And if you let utensils or vegetables hang around in the sink, rinse them before use.



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