Mungkin tak pernah terbayangkan dalam benak apabila ruang mesin pengeluaran tunai atau automatic teller machine (ATM) merupakan tempat yang sangat ideal bagi penularan penyakit. Padahal, kenyataan membuktikan sedemikian.
Bahkan, hasil sebuah pengujian menunjukkan, mesin automatik transaksi perbankan itu juga ternyata sama kotornya dengan tandas awam kerana merupakan tempat yang sangat ideal bagi berkembang biaknya bakteria dan kuman penyebab penyakit.
Para pengkaji di England sebelum ini telah melakukan penelitian dengan cara membandingkan keypad atau papan kekunci input beberapa ATM dengan tempat duduk tandas awam. Hasil menunjukkan, keduanya ternyata memiliki tahap pencemaran bakteria yang sama.
Sampel dari kedua-dua tempat itu sama iaitu merupakan tempat ideal bagi bakteria-bakteria yang menyebabkan penyakit infeksi dan disebarkan.
"Kami terkejut dengan hasil penemuan ini sebab mesin ATM tercemar bakteria dengan tahap yang sama dengan tandas awam. Selain itu, bakteria yang dkesan di ATM juga sama jenisnya dengan tandas, yang mana menjadi penyebab penyakit paling umum di masyarakat," kata Dr Richard Hastings dari BioCote Ltd, syarikat di bidang antibakteria yang menjalankan kajian ini.
Sebelumnya, dalam sebuah kutipan pendapat terhadap pada pengguna menyatakan, tandas berada di tempat pertama sebagai tempat paling kotor, sedangkan ATM berada di tempat ke-10. Tempat lainnya yang dinilai sebagai sarang berkembangnya bakteria adalah pondok telefon umum serta tempat duduk bas dan kereta.
ATM machines 'as dirty as toilets' - says UK study
Experts took swabs from the numeric key pads on a string of city centre ATMs around England which are used by thousands of shoppers every day.
They then took similar swabs from the seats of nearby public lavatories and compared the bacteria under microscopes in a lab.
The swab were left to grow overnight and samples from both locations were found to contain pseudomonads and bacillus, bacterias which are known to cause sickness and diarrhoea.
Yesterday (Mon) Dr Richard Hastings, microbiologist for BioCote, a built-in, antibacterial product coating, said: "We were interested in comparing the levels of bacterial contamination between heavily-used ATM machines and public lavatories.
We were surprised by our results because the ATM machines were shown to be heavily contaminated with bacteria; to the same level as nearby public lavatories."
"In addition the bacteria we detected on ATMs were similar to those from the toilet, which are well known as causes of common human illnesses."
BioCote carried out the swab tests after they carried out a survey which revealed Brits consider public lavatories to be the biggest health risk.
The study of 3,000 adults also revealed public telephones are considered the biggest health risk.
While public lavatories were thought of as the dirtiest places in the country, chip and pin pads and cash machines only ranked tenth.
Fears over germs spreading saw almost a quarter of people labelling public telephones as 'very dirty' with more than one in ten wiping the handset and buttons down before using one.
And 48 per cent of people – 23 millions adults – even avoid using them altogether unless they have to because they are concerned about the dirt or bugs they may pick up from it.
Only public lavatories were ranked higher than phone boxes in the grime league, with almost two thirds calling them either 'very dirty' or 'fairly dirty'.
Third place in the study went to bus stops, while the dusty and grimy atmosphere in London Underground and metro stations saw them ranked fourth.
Seats on a bus completed the top five, with one in ten people admitting they regularly try to clean or cover them before sitting down.
Tube and tram seats followed close behind in sixth place while cash machines were at number seven.
More than forty-two per cent of Brits – 20 million – reckon the ATMs are dirty, with a quarter admitting they try not to use them to avoid having to touch the buttons, getting cashback from shops instead.
Eighth place went to train stations, followed by the grimy seats on the trains.
Thirty five per cent of Brits are so concerned about using public transport and picking up the dirt and germs that they try not to use a bus, train or tube.
Chip and Pin machines completed the top ten thanks to worries about the germs from the thousands of people who touch the buttons every day.
Dr Richard Hastings added: ''Public telephones can be a real hot spot for germs and grime.
"Not only are they handled by different people each day, but the handsets are then held close to people's nose and mouth."
"All it takes is for one person to have a cold or bug and this would get passed on to everyone else who uses the phone."
"But it's ironic that while people perceive chip and pin pads to be the least dirtiest, our swabbing experiments have actually shown them to be dirtier than public lavatories."