Get dangerous germs out of your home

The raw meat you bring home from the grocery store has bacteria that can result in diarrheal disease.

Story highlights

  • E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter can make you pretty sick or kill you
  • Food-borne illnesses are microbes that invade your body through the gastrointestinal tract
  • Each year, one in six Americans contracts food poisoning on U.S. soil
Even if you're one of the many people who believe that exposing yourself to day-to-day germs is healthy for your immune system, it's still wise to take steps to protect yourself from the most infectious germs in your home.
"Bugs like Escherichia coli (E.coli), salmonella and campylobacter can make you pretty sick or even kill you," says Douglas Powell, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and author of Barfblog.com.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that seven pathogens cause about 90% of these illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths. Scientists dub them "food-borne illnesses" because they're microbes that invade your body through the gastrointestinal tract. (Considering that we put our hands to our faces anywhere from 18 to 40 times per hour, is it any surprise that our mouths are the primary point of entry?)
You'll recognize the poisoning by the fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that results.
Luckily, it isn't too hard to eliminate the dangerous microbes you may unknowingly drag into your home.
"Chlorine bleach is your friend," says Powell, referring to one of the most effective toxin-destroying products around.
Rooting out the microbes' whereabouts, on the other hand, can be trickier. Read on, and you'll learn how to eliminate from your home the microbes and toxins that could affect your family's health.
Good: Rearrange your fridge to reduce your risk
You don't have to travel to Latin America to experience a case of Montezuma's Revenge. Each year, one in six Americans contracts food poisoning right here on U.S. soil, according to the CDC. In fact, a mere trip to your refrigerator could put you at risk.
"The raw meat you bring home from the grocery store has bacteria that can result in diarrheal disease," says Dr. Rose Devasia, assistant professor at University of Louisville School of Public Health And Information Sciences in Louisville, Kentucky.
A recent report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest listed ground beef, chicken, turkey and steak as the most susceptible to disease.
Devasia recommends double-bagging the meats or placing them on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator on a plate, away from the likes of the apples, strawberries or celery you'll eat cold.
"You'll go on to cook your meat to kill these microbes," she says, "but you don't want that slimy liquid from the package to spill onto the fruits and vegetables you eat raw."
Better: Place toothbrushes far away from the john
You wouldn't lick your toilet on purpose. Yet leaving a damp, exposed toothbrush within three feet of the loo isn't much better.
"Studies have shown that bacteria in the toilet can disperse in the air after flushing it," says Devasia. "Toilet water -- along with whatever you've deposited in it -- gets