Something Is Sneaking Through Airport Security on Plastic Trays

By Keeli Royle4 hours ago

By Keeli Royle4 hours ago

They were trying to identify and quantify the respiratory viruses on frequently-touched surfaces in airports as part of a broader study into the role of airports and traffic hubs in pandemics.

The researchers said in their study that airports could serve as a risk zone for an 'emerging pandemic threat.' The threat can be higher in countries where passengers are forced to empty their snack and foodstuff into a plastic bin while going through security.

The research team monitored germ levels across a variety of surfaces inside the airport during the winter of 2016.

A United Airlines flight attendant drops her shoes into a plastic tray as she prepares to pass through a security checkpoint in the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois on May 11, 2005.

They took surface and air samples from the playground, pharmacy, handrails, and passport control points. Rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, is most common in airport surfaces.


"We found the highest frequency of respiratory viruses on plastic trays used in security check areas for depositing hand-carried luggage and personal items", the scientists wrote in their journal article.

Hand sanitisation would not eliminate the risk of contamination entirely, but would be effective for targeting viruses including influenza.

The lead authors of the article, who hailed from Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare and the University of Nottingham, concluded that the screening trays "appear commonly contaminated", and that they are one of the surfaces at an airport where passengers are most likely to pick up harmful viruses.

"This study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread", said Jonathan Van Tram, a professor of health protection from the school of medicine at the University of Nottingham in a statement.

In comparison, the samples that were taken from three areas, such as flush, lid, and door lock of the airport public toilet, showed no presence of respiratory viruses. "The results also provide new ideas for technical improvements in airport design and refurbishment".

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