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Kitchen Safety Starts with Eliminating Unseen Dangers

(ARA) - The kitchen -- it's the one room where at any given time you can find family members eating, working on homework, talking on the phone or just hanging out with friends. With so much time spent there, did you ever wonder how safe it is? Yes, there are the obvious risks to avoid, like keeping little hands away from a hot stovetop and ensuring a fire extinguisher is handy. But, how much do you really know about those health and safety threats you can't see with the naked eye?

According to Dr. Kelly Reynolds, an environmental science researcher and public health educator at the University of Arizona, you might think twice about those hidden health and safety threats before writing them off as nothing. "They are definitely there," Reynolds says. "Primarily bacteria and viruses, these 'invisible' dangers can frequently be found on kitchen surfaces and utensils, as well as in our food and water."

The good news is there are steps you can take to help remove them. Dr. Reynolds shows us how to banish bacteria traps from everybody's favorite room.

The Sink

As the centerpiece of the kitchen, it might surprise you that the average kitchen sink contains the most concentrated combination of harmful microorganisms in the entire house. Yuck!

"Kitchen sinks tend to have higher counts of fecal bacteria than bathroom toilets," says Reynolds. "That's because raw foods containing microbes are often times placed in the sink. The bacteria on the food sticks to the sink's surface and can even re-grow in waste traps, dishcloths and other moist areas. To avoid this problem, you should sanitize your kitchen sink daily with Clorox Bleach."

The Tap

The water you get from the tap can also be another source of bacteria, viruses and pathogens. In fact, an estimated 7 million Americans become sick and more than 1,000 die each year from disease-causing microbes in water.

"Many of the waterborne plagues of the past, such as cholera and typhoid fever, are no longer a widespread problem; however outbreaks from waterborne bacteria, viruses and protozoa can still occur," says Reynolds. "These outbreaks can lead to serious and sometimes fatal, health consequences."

The answer, according to Reynolds, is to install a drinking water treatment system. "One of the most comprehensive filtration systems on the market today is the Pall/Kinetico Purefecta Drinking Water Purifier" says Reynolds. "It's the only system certified to remove bacteria, viruses and protozoa from water."

Countertops & Cutting Boards

In addition to the sink area, often times bacteria can be found on surfaces such as countertops. Frequently washing dishtowels and sponges in hot water will help prevent spreading bacteria on countertops. The microwave is also a good place to destroy bacteria in dish sponges. After use, simply microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds to kill those unwanted pathogens.

Cutting boards are also often smeared with bacteria and pathogens, so make sure you scrub them with soap instead of just giving them a quick rinse. Or, even better, purchase a cutting board that has an anti-microbial surface. If you can't find one, try to keep two cutting boards in the house -- one for ready-to-eat foods like vegetables, breads and fruits, and another for raw meat. This way, you lessen chances of cross-contamination.

The Refrigerator

An estimated 76 million Americans become ill with foodborne diseases each year. While the vast majority of these illnesses are mild and symptoms last only a day or two, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 325,000 people are hospitalized and 5,000 die due to food borne illnesses each year.

To help prevent foodborne illness, after a meal, put the leftovers directly into the fridge. Nearly four out of five Americans think it's necessary to let the food cool on the counter before putting it in the fridge -- which is a myth. It's best to store the food in the refrigerator as soon as the meal is over -- before doing the dishes.

Also, never refrigerate large pots of food -- this makes it hard for all of the food to cool thoroughly. Instead, put leftovers in small containers and make it a habit to date them. Discard leftovers that are more than four days old.


According to the Federal Department of Agriculture's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, lead leached from some types of ceramic dinnerware into foods and beverages is often Americans' biggest source of dietary lead. Usually, the lead source comes from older dishes, in particular, those made prior to 1971. Still, if you're concerned, there are testing kits available to consumers today. They use swabs that change color in the presence of relatively high levels of lead on various surfaces.

Finally, Reynolds reminds us that ensuring your kitchen is safe may require breaking a number of old bad habits, but it's a personal training course that's worth the effort. Make sure your entire family is aware of proper kitchen habits so you can all lead healthier lives.

EDITORS NOTE: Dr. Kelly A. Reynolds is an environmental science researcher and public health educator at the University of Arizona, with a concentration in microbial water quality, food safety and pathogen transmission. A leading educator, Dr. Reynolds is equally well known as a lecturer and for her published work in scientific journals. She has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals including Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Water Science and Technology, and the Canadian Journal of Microbiology. She also authors a monthly column on water quality issues in Water Conditioning and Purification International.

Kinetico Incorporated, headquartered in Newbury, Ohio, is a leading manufacturer of water treatment systems. An extensive network of Kinetico dealers serving residential and light commercial customers has helped more than a million people in nearly 100 countries experience the benefits of better water.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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