Let’s talk about stinky bins. What you can’t see can kill you. A 2011-2012 study of acute care hospitals found over 10,000 distinctive microorganisms in trash bins and dumpsters. Of these, the most common types were bacteria that cause staph infections, foodborne illnesses, and bacteria that can lead to conditions like endocarditis. Taking out the trash is a lot dirtier than you think. Here is a list of the top 5 dangerous types of bacteria found in your trash bin.
E. Coli is found in uncooked beef and other household foods like cucumber. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a name for a diverse group of bacteria, not just one. Some are found in the intestinal tract and promote healthy digestive processes. However, there are a few strands that can make you severely ill. According to the CDC, “Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses.” These harmful types of E. coli can appear in contaminated raw fruits, vegetables, meat, and other animal products. Once you throw any of these items away, E. coli will likely start to grow. So cleaning those stinky bins can be detrimental to your health.
While most people can avoid listeria infections, it can be dangerous for anyone with a compromised immune system. Listeria is found commonly in deli meats and unpasteurized dairy products. Once you throw these infected items in the trash, the bacteria will continue to thrive in your bin. If someone gets infected with listeria, it will either stay in the gut or spread to the rest of the body, causing a condition known as invasive listeriosis. Normal listeria causes typical food poisoning symptoms such as fever and diarrhea. Listeriosis, on the other hand, is very serious. FoodSafety.gov states that listeriosis can cause “stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches.” In pregnant women, it is even worse and can result in fetal infection or death.
Salmonella is well-known for existing in raw eggs and is also found in raw meat and unpasteurized dairy products. Though rare, it can appear in pet food, nuts, and unwashed fruits and vegetables. Once infected with salmonella, it takes about 4-7 days to heal and usually causes food poisoning symptoms. These can include diarrhea, fever, cramps, vomiting, and nausea. It may get into the bloodstream in more severe cases, known as typhoid fever. Typhoid fever is a life-threatening condition that exacerbates the symptoms of salmonella and may add new ones, such as rashes.
Clostridium perfringens is a type of bacteria that causes food poisoning, commonly found in raw meats. While heat kills it, leaving meats at room temperature for long periods can cause the bacteria to spread. Despite the long and complicated name, C. perfringens is surprisingly common. The CDC estimates that there are around 1 million infected in the US each year. While most cases are unserious and resolved in 24 hours or less, severe cases may persist for weeks. Symptoms of the illness typically include diarrhea and stomach cramps.
Hepatitis A is a mild to severe infection of the liver. Today it is commonly preventable by vaccines, as those who get the vaccine develop lifelong immunity. Typically, hepatitis A originates from contaminated water, where it can go on to infect shellfish. Additionally, it is present in raw poultry products. While most people who get it do eventually recover, it has quite a long recovery time, ranging from weeks to months. In the elderly and immunocompromised, it may cause liver failure or even death.
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