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Germ Test Shows Some Public Seats Full of Bacteria

Photodisc/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- You might want to sit down for this -- or maybe not. This is a story about germs on public seats, and just how common and hazardous they might be.

When ABC's Good Morning America heard that Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) commuter train seats in the San Francisco Bay Area had recently tested positive for all sorts of bacteria, producers wanted to know whether it was just BART, or if all public seats are germ factories. A team of GMA sleuths decided to travel from the East Coast to San Francisco to visit BART and test every seat along the way.

Here's a list of the seats that were tested and how they did.

The Not-So-Bad Seats: These seats contained low bacteria counts and/or harmless bacteria that will not make you sick.

  • New York City taxi seat
  • San Francisco restaurant seat
  • Hotel lobby seat
  • Hotel room seat
  • BART seat
  • Toilet seat

The So-Bad Seats: These seats contained high bacteria counts, including E Coli. (The strains of E. coli we found are not the deadly type, but are an indicator of the presence of fecal matter.)

  • Movie theater seat
  • Airport lounge seat
  • Airplane seat
  • Rental car seat
  • Park bench

How to Handle Germs on Public Seats

When GMA tested a dozen different kinds of public seats on a trip from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, it discovered that more than half contained traces of fecal matter and nearly a third were positive for E. coli.

Wash your hands thoroughly after you sit in a public seat, especially before eating. If you don't have access to soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer solution is effective in killing germs.

It's a good idea to avoid sitting on your bed and anywhere else you want to keep extra clean after sitting in a public seat. And if you placed your purse or backpack on the seat, then you won't want to put it on your kitchen or bathroom counter -- or other places that you need to keep sanitary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio