Here’s Exactly How Gross Your ATM Is, Bacterially Speaking

During sex education, they told us that every time we slept with someone, we were also sleeping with everyone that person had ever slept with. That's how diseases are handed down from one person to the next. Likewise, most U.S. bills have trace amounts of cocaine on them. Just by existing, things get dirty. So, it would follow that ATMs are insanely gross. New York University researchers sought to figure out exactly how contaminated NYC ATMs are, and what that might tell us about the people that use them. “ATM surfaces...are interesting from both a biodiversity perspective and a public-health perspective,” the authors write in the peer-reviewed journal mSphere. To that end, Holly M. Bik and her co-authors studied 66 samples taken between June and July, 2014 from eight different neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Their was was to make, “a unique contribution to the growing body of work focused on the ‘urban microbiome.’” What did they find? Mostly, stuff that lives on human skin, a relative of the common STI trichomoniasis, and, in Brighton Beach, an instance of Toxoplasma. That can cause toxoplasmosis, which can cause flulike symptoms. But John Metcalfe at CityLab says that we shouldn't worry. "Don’t panic just yet: The research didn’t determine how many of these microbes were still active when collected, and it’s possible that many were in such small amounts that they wouldn’t be harmful." So, on the whole, not as bad as it could be. Metcalfe goes further, breaking down some of the researchers' weird ethnographic findings that are both shocking and un-shocking. "Traces of microbes linked with chicken appeared more in a largely black community in Harlem," he writes. "And ATMs in predominantly white neighborhoods were festooned with Xeromyces bisporus, a mold associated with the 'spoilage of high-sugar foods such as cakes and confectionaries.'" You heard it here first: White people love cake.

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