Millions of passengers make their way through airports across the world every single year, so it’s no surprise germs spread in transit. What does come as a surprise though, is that that the germiest item in the airport is the humble plastic security tray.

According to new research out of Europe, those seemingly innocent trays used to place your belongings in at airport security screenings are where germs breed.

It starts to make sense when you think about the fact that these trays are touched by millions of passengers as they drop shoes, laptops and luggage into them.

Scientists from the University of Nottingham in England and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare swabbed frequently touched surfaces at Helsinki Airport in Finland during and after peak hours in the winter of 2016.

They picked up traces of rhinovirus, the source of the common cold, and of the influenza A virus.

They found traces on half the luggage trays. This was more than on any of the other surfaces they tested.


None of these viruses were found on toilet surfaces at the airport. When you think about how often toilets are clean as opposed to the security trays, it once again makes sense.

The study, which was published in BMC Infectious Diseases, also recorded the level of germs on luggage trolleys, escalator handrails and stair handrails which all came back with fewer germs than security trays.

“We found the highest frequency of respiratory viruses on plastic trays used in security check areas for depositing hand-carried luggage and personal items,” stated the scientists.


Image: Unsplash

“These boxes typically cycle with high frequency to subsequent passengers, and are typically seized with a wide palm surface area and strong grip.”


So how can you avoid these germs giving you the sniffles when travelling?

Use antibacterial soap and warm water to wash hands for at least 20 seconds, especially after coming into contact with frequently-touched surfaces.

Keep hand sanitiser, on hand too especially when passing through security!

Are you surprised by the findings? Let us know below.