Is your job making you sick?

Study compares professions to determine 'germiest' job

Lawyers have long gotten a bad rap, but with tax season fast approaching, you should be worrying about your accountant. A recent study found that bacteria levels in accountants' offices were nearly seven times higher than in lawyers' offices.

In another instalment of Germs in the Workplace, researchers led by the University of Arizona's Charles Gerba set out to compare whether some professions are truly "germier" than others.

"College students may want to reconsider their majors based on these results," joked Gerba.

Not surprisingly, teachers were at the top of the germ spectrum, while television producers, consultants and lawyers were at the low end.

The study, funded by the Clorox Company, found that the phones, desks and keyboards regularly used by teachers, accountants and bankers harboured nearly two to twenty times more bacteria per square inch than other professions. Phones ranked as the number one home for office germs, followed by desks, keyboards and computer mouses.

Bacteria presence on office surfaces overall appears to have decreased, in some cases by nearly five times the initial count, since the first Germs in the Workplace study in 2002, Gerba said.

"We were pleased to find a decrease in bacteria levels. Perhaps people are becoming more aware of germs in their office and doing something about it," said Gerba.

As people spend more time at their desks, germs find plenty to snack on. According to a recent American Dietician Association survey, 57 per cent of workers snack at their desks at least once a day. More than 75 per cent of workers "only occasionally" clean their desks before eating; 20 per cent never do, the survey found.

"Desks are really bacteria cafeterias," said Gerba. "They're breakfast buffets, lunch tables and snack bars, as we spend more and more hours at the office."

Realizing the need for a targeted attack on germs and bacteria, a few innovative office suppliers have introduced products that directly achieve this goal. For example, Grand and Toy now offers a line of technology accessories that offer antimicrobial protection.

Gerba recommends frequent hand-washing and using disinfecting wipes daily on surfaces in your cubicle or office to kill illness-causing germs.

Germiest jobs -- ranked from most germy to least germy

1. Teacher

2. Accountant

3. Banker

4. Radio DJ

5. Doctor

6. Television producer

7. Consultant

8. Publicist

9. Lawyer

Samples were collected last fall from private offices and cubicles in office buildings located in Tucson, Ariz., and Washington. A total of 616 surfaces were tested and analyzed at the University of Arizona laboratories.

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