50 Germiest Places in the World

It is a dirty world out there, with nowhere to run when trying to avoid the microscopic pests that cause everything from mild irritations to agonizing death – and all that lay between. The following list contains some everyday places, to some rarer ones that make sense, some destinations that may require travel, and maybe a few surprises that pose the highest risk of contamination. There are always precautions that can be taken, of course, but it is entirely impossible to completely stave off the influence of bacteria, viruses, and other malevolent microbial menaces. Sleep well tonight!

    1. Portable toilets A combination of high traffic and no plumbing make portable toilets a veritable Shangri-la for bacteria and other microbes. 2. Slaughterhouses Though heavily sanitized in some areas, the main floor of the slaughterhouse involves hundreds of farm animals crammed into one tiny space. And then they get dead, and then they get hacked into meat. Suffice to say, slaughterhouses are rather germy establishments. 3. The Blarney Stone Thousands of tourists each year flock to Blarney Castle in order to kiss its celebrated stone. Hoping to gain eloquence as a result, they also walk away having pressed their mouths to the exact same spot as millions of other dirty, potentially diseased individuals 4. Kitchen sinks Most people do not realize it, but kitchen sinks are one of the dirtiest places in the home, harboring used dishes and their accompanying decaying food particles. People also use them to wash clothes, as substitute toilets when vomit does not want to stay down, and other lovely unsanitary things. 5. Door handles No matter where they are located, door handles act as a magnet for germs, dirt, and assorted grime. They are one of the most guilty culprits in the spread of flu and colds. 6. Baku, Azerbaijan According to Forbes, this Caspian oil city ranks as the world’s dirtiest. The accompanying air and water pollution grants it a Mercer Health and Sanitation Index Score of 27.6. 7. Underwear There is a reason why nonprofits who take clothing donations always emphasize how much they really do not want your old underpants, and that reason has nothing to do with having Spongebob Squarepants’s godforsaken lemon-yellow face right there across the keister. 8. Outdoor music festivals Hit Burning Man or another one of Woodstock’s many successors to learn firsthand why the patrons are derisively referred to as “dirty hippies.” 9. Playgrounds Hardly surprising, given children’s fondness for mining gold without ever actually having to pan or chip away rock for it. Swings, jungle gyms, and other equipment where kids have to use their hands rank as the dirtiest. 10. Ganges River Consistently ranked as one of the most polluted in the world, people coming into contact with Ganges water put themselves at risk for cholera, dysentery, cryptosporidium, and other water-borne illnesses. 11. Purses and handbags Numerous studies have shown that the inside of purses, backpacks, and other daily transports harbor all sorts of unpleasant viruses and microbes. Food, gum, and other perishables only serve to make the situation worse. 12. Dhaka, Bangladesh The second dirtiest city in the world, the Bangladeshi capital city plays host to disconcerting levels of water pollution which come to negatively impact the 150 million people residing there. 13. Monkey cages Monkeys sure are cute, what with looking like particularly fuzzy people and all. They also happen to really, really enjoy slinging their own feces about, too. 14. Hotel linens and towels Even the cleanest hotel linens and towels were once used by hundreds – if not thousands – of other people. Sure they get run through the washers and dryers, but… 15. Wet laundry …even ostensibly “clean” items such as a load of wet laundry can transmit certain microbes – many of whom thrive in warm, wet environments like the washing machine. E. coli is especially a concern when washing undergarments, which can spread the bacteria to other clothes. 16. Antananarivo, Madagascar With a Mercer Health and Sanitation Index score of 30.1, Antananarivo and its people suffer under too many crammed into too small a space. 17. Oscar Wilde’s grave Like a Parisian Blarney Stone, tourists traditionally leave a kiss for the celebrated Irish writer right on his tombstone. The rock is spotted with thousands of red lipstick smears and their associated microscopic companions. 18. Landfills Tons of trash, both organic and synthetic, cannot possibly be sanitary under any condition. The rusting, used razors and needles alone hold the potential to pass around any number of blood-borne diseases. 19. Fish farm lakes Hundreds of salmon, tuna and other fish eat, spawn, and relieve themselves in farm ponds. After removal, many farmers recycle the polluted water by dropping catfish or tilapia (not to be confused with Tila Tequila, who was considered for this list) into its murky depths and let them continue the work of their forebears. 20. Sewers Filled to the brim with human and animal waste, dirt, food chunks from the garbage disposal, and other various and sundry unpleasantries, it probably comes as no surprise that rats are actually the cleanest denizens of sewage systems everywhere. 21. Waste treatment ponds Prior to receiving the full sanitation process, the ponds at waste treatment facilities squeeze together all the bits of metabolic leavings into one teeming mass of sludge and disease. 22. Port au Prince, Haiti As a major hub of commercial activity, Port au Prince unfortunately falls victim to a corrupt system that ignores the well-being of its peoples and cares little for pollution control. 23. Keyboards The sweat and oils from fingers and hands leave behind grime and communicable diseases such as the flu, colds, strep throat, and others. Public computers at libraries, schools, and other organizations pose the most threat. 24. Communal office equipment Staplers, phones, chairs, copy machines, and other devices shared by an entire office follow the same basic logic as keyboards and playgrounds. If people touch it, it gets smeared with grease and filth and runs the risk of spreading all sorts of illnesses. 25. Cell phones Many recent studies have shown that cell phones, which come into intimate contact with hands and mouths, are actually far dirtier than toilets. 26. Mexico City, Mexico Mexico City perpetually sits within a dense smog of some of the world’s absolute worst air pollution, with 85% of the year characterized by dangerous ozone levels. 27. Schools According to The Wall Street Journal, teachers actually come into contact with more harmful bacteria than almost any other position. Neurotic mothers may not appreciate hearing just how many communicable diseases pass through their children’s schools each year. 28. Airplane bathrooms Airplane bathrooms are basically aerospace Port-A-Potties, except with some semblance of plumbing. 29. Kitchen sponges Nobody ever thinks to clean their cleaning supplies, and porous surfaces such as sponges collect bits of food and grime that just sit there, rot, and allow bacteria to pop in and do a little Tango. 30. Bath tubs & shower curtains People may exits their bath tubs feeling sparkly and clean, but the receptacles themselves harbor dead skin cells, oils, and daily grime that get washed off with soap and water. 31. Water parks Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Not that anyone would want to, considering how the millions of people traipsing through water parks every summer leave behind their dead skin, bacteria, and diseases in the pool. 32. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Due to insufficient sanitation, inhabitants of Ethiopia’s capital suffer from a high infant mortality rate, extremely low life expectancy, and horrifying diseases. 33. Healthcare facilities Obviously, some parts of hospitals and doctor’s offices remain almost completely sanitary. However, waiting and emergency rooms witness a multitude of illnesses on an hourly basis, and the biohazard depositories alone probably contain enough disease-ridden blood, pus, saliva, metabolic waste, tissues, and other human leavings to kill a bull elephant. 34. Nursing homes Unfortunately, far too many elderly individuals end up in lackluster care centers that delay the cleaning of urine and feces or neglect changing their bed linens. This leads not only to bacteria which may cause serious illness – even death – in these centers’ frail inhabitants, but the possibility of terrible sores and infections as well. 35. Vacuum cleaner bags All the dirt, pet hair, mites, dust, and other detritus that gets sucked up through a vacuum cleaner follows the Law of Conservation of Mass. It has to go somewhere, and as a result the bags whose sole purpose involves collecting all the grit and grime condenses all the little household microbes together into one powdery stew of abject terror. 36. Mumbai, India Mercer Health and Sanitation Index bestowed a score of 38.2 on Mumbai, though recent political and economic investments in the area may slowly improve the sanitation and overall quality of life. 37. Beds Some estimate that humans spend up to 1/3 of their life in bed, both asleep and awake. Because they are often subjected to sweat, drool, gas, blood, mucus, the occasional “accident,” and other perfectly natural but nevertheless off-putting facts of life, beds are practically Petri dishes. 38. Murder/suicide scenes Bodies begin decomposing mere minutes – if not seconds – after death. More grisly murder or suicide cases involving firearms, cutting, or jumping onto concrete distribute blood and bits of bones, tissues, and organs across a queasily wide expanse of space. These, in turn, begin their own decomposition process and spread the accompanying, potentially disease-ridden, bacteria further than cases involving booze and pills, hanging, asphyxiation, or other “clean” methods. 39. Farms Housing a number of animals in a small, contained space especially concentrates the microbes present in their waste and on their skin, making even clean barns one of the more bacterial areas of a farm. 40. Zoos Zoos follow the same logic as barns. No matter how good a job the zookeepers do, keeping animals and their dirty selves in a pen only merges their collective filth into one overhanging haze of potential illnesses and infections. 41. ATM machines ATMs see a lot of traffic, and with the sheer volume of hands passing over the buttons, the greasy oils and residues left behind provide a treasure trove of bacteria – many of whom may lead to unpleasant illnesses. 42. Dumpsters As enjoyable as dumpster diving can be sometimes, adventurous bargain hunters need to understand the real dangers lurking in these potential treasure troves. Bonus bacteria come with ones containing medical waste. 43. Baghdad, Iraq The oil industry and ongoing war have rendered Baghdad’s air quality some of the worst in the world. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases transmitted by water unfortunately still devastate the population as well. 44. Public transportation Buses, trains, subways, trolleys, and other methods of public transportation may help keep the atmosphere cleaner, but any enclosed space with several people is going to be a breeding ground for communicable diseases. One cough can spread a cold or the flu in one small, crowded train car. 45. Gym equipment Equipment at public gyms are basically relatively stationary versions of public transportation. The biggest difference being, of course, that these machines take it upon themselves to absorb all the sweat and accompanying bacteria. Just like a jaunt through space, it is always a good idea to remember to bring a towel to the gym and wipe down the equipment. However, this does not necessarily remove all the microbes. It only transfers them. 46. Almaty, Kazakhstan Negligent pollution standards in combination with an oil and petroleum-based economy result in a Mercer Health and Sanitation Index Score of 39.1. Numerous toxic waste dumps pepper the city as well, poisoning the populace and harboring a multitude of potential health hazards. 47. Money Coins and paper dollars alike change hands quickly, as a result transferring germs, grease, and grime from one person to another. They only become dirtier and dirtier as they move about in circulation, accumulating a little bit of every owner on their surface. 48. Soap It may seem paradoxical that soap and soap dispensers – especially those in public restrooms – are actually quite dirty. But it follows the same logic as any other object that comes in contact with a multitude of people throughout its lifetime. Washing hands with a bar of soap means both cleaning and acquiring all the leavings of previous users. 49. Brazzaville, Congo Because of its poor plumbing system, drinking water the city of Brazzaville is contaminated by potentially deadly bacteria. Beyond that, it also suffers under the crushingly hazardous air quality. 50. The human mouth Anyone who reads this list and considers sequestering him- or herself away in a hypoallergenic, fully sanitized room will never actually escape bacteria and viruses. The human mouth actually contains more harmful microbes than dogs – one animal that loves its own feces almost as much as monkeys. No matter what measures someone takes to stay safe from, something unpleasant will always be around.

Bacteria are like the funk. They can’t be stopped, though in the case of the former it is possible to somewhat stave off. Understanding where potentially harmful microbes thrive make it easier to practice responsible cleaning habits and practices to minimize the risk of transmitting colds, flu, diarrhea, and other illnesses. It also sheds light on parts of the world in need of serious aid and socioeconomic/sociopolitical reform that will shape citizen’s lives for the better and help them and their descendents feel happier, healthier, and stronger.