If filling the gas tank on your car these days leaves you hunched over and nauseous, it may not be just the price of gas that’s causing your symptoms. Gas pump handles, it seems, are among the dirtiest surfaces you touch on a regular basis.

A recent study by Kimberly-Clark Professional found that gas pump handles are breeding grounds for both bacteria and viruses. In fact, gas pumps are worse than handles on public mailboxes, escalator rails, parking meters and crosswalk buttons.

Why are gas pumps so unsanitary? According to the study’s head, Dr. Kelly Arehart, the answer is relatively obvious: no one ever cleans the thing you touch on a daily basis.

Reuters reports that the study examined gas pumps in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia, and all tested high for levels of adenosine triphosphate. While that itself won’t make you sick, it does indicate the presence of animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast or mold cells, some of which can transmit serious illness.

If you’re really worried about the germs on your self-service gas pump handle, you can wear a disposable vinyl glove or use hand sanitizer when you finish. If that’s still not enough to assuage your paranoia, take solace in knowing that New Jersey and Oregon both permit only full-service gas stations. Move there, and the cleanliness of gas pump handles becomes someone else’s problem.


By KURT ERNST The Car Connection October 25, 2011