You Don't Know Where That's Been: Part 1

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LAREDO, TEXAS (KGNS) - You don't know where that's been! It's something grown-ups always told us as kids and it's a phrase to live by as we head into the cold and flu season. But we wanted to take it a step further and see just how dirty the things we touch every day really are. In this special report we work with a hospital to test 6 different objects and our results will shock you.

Brandi Mason has two boys, 8-year-old Jonas and 11-year-old Robert and it breaks her heart to see them sick. "It's very hurtful. I'm always by their bed, can barely sleep, checking on them every five minutes," she said.

But she knows it's a real risk as they head off to school. "Being around other children at school that are unsanitized, that do not wash their hands, that cough without covering their mouth," Mason said.

And she knows they're exposed to viruses, parasites, and bacteria.

"Many times you can't avoid it because someone sneezes or coughs, and doesn't cover their mouth," said Dr. Sigfried Pueblitz, a pathologist at Doctors Hospital.

He says while a lot of illnesses are airborne many are spread through surfaces and can be prevented. Harmful bacteria like E. coli or salmonella can make you very sick.

"You're going to experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever," Dr. Pueblitz told us.

So Dr. Pueblitz is showing us some of things we can touch exposing us to infection. He told us, "the most common way to get sick after touching a surface that has been contaminated is to touch your face or eyes or eat without washing our hands."

We chose and tested 6 objects. In this test we're looking specifically for bacteria. We went out and gathered some samples: first playground equipment, then a men's room door handle and an office keyboard. They're three things a lot of people touch, things common sense tells you may not be that clean. In the lab Dr. Pueblitz swabbed a cell phone, some spare change, and a tomato from a grocery store. He said, "we're going to see that some surfaces are much more contaminated than others, and sometimes surprisingly so."

Now the test begins. The swab samples are distributed on nutrient filled petri dishes to grow whatever bacteria we find. "The basic identification is from the colony formations," Dr. Pueblitz explained.

So which items do you think were dirtiest? The playground equipment, restroom room door handle, office keyboard, cell phone, spare change or the tomato. The results might make you cringe. You can vote in the poll on our KGNS homepage on the right side of your screen. Just pick your choice for the item with the most bacteria, and we'll have the results in part two of this story Tuesday on KGNS News@10.