Preventing "Bagteria"

By: Katherine Cook
By: Katherine Cook

In their hands and over the shoulder. Most women carry their purses everywhere they go, including some not-so-sanitary places. Some set them on bathroom floors, followed by places they would like to keep clean.
"On the kitchen table," said purse owner Jennifer Noland. "Then if you're in a hurry, It's easy to forget and set your purse in dirty areas too."
So what types of things collect on the bottom of hand bags? For the answer, I went to University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Chemistry Lab Coordinator Connie Pitman. Pitman gave us 14 sterile swabs and instructions to sample satchel specimens all over town. On our mission we heard many excuses.
"There's never a place to set your purse."
As well as admissions.
"Maybe I haven't been so careful with my purse."
"I wouldn't want to get sick from putting my purse in the wrong place."
A valid concern, says Pitman, who put the samples-- including one from my purse-- onto petrie dishes and into an incubator for 48 hours. Pitman found Staphylococcus on 5 purses and says staph is the most common cause of food poisoning.
"It forms a toxin and makes you sick 2-4 hours after you ingest it," said Pitman, who also found fecal matter.
"Fecal matter contains Salmonella and can causes gastroenteritis, which often means nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal pain."
The only sample Pitman found with fecal matter was swab # 13... a.k.a. my purse. But before you pass judgment on this reporter or the other dirty purse owners, Pitman says there's more to the lab results than meets the eye.
"I'm not saying those people are dirty, maybe they're not aware of where they're putting their purse or they have the kind that picks up bacteria easy."
Like mine-- a bag made of woven fibers. Pitman says cloth purses are the worst, followed by leather. She says synthetic material like vinyl resists bacteria the best, and if you can help it, don't set your purse down-- a rule we found those with clean purses took very seriously. Pitman says vinyl purses are also the easiest to clean. She recommends wiping them down with peroxide or a bleach-water mix once a week to help reduce bacteria. In all, 12 of the 14 purses we tested had some type of potentially harmful bacteria growing on them, but to the women who carry them, some... is too much.

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