An investigation into contaminated surfaces on planes has uncovered some truly terrifying results – and we’re never setting foot on a plane without hand sanitiser ever again.
According to CBC News’ Marketplace, loose condoms, smartphones, dirty diapers and used tampons have all been found in the seat pockets of airplanes. Excuse us while we vomit.
Marketplace recently undertook an investigation to find out just how gross the surfaces on planes can be – swabbing areas on 18 short-haul flights in Canada, across three major airlines.
And the investigation has uncovered just how bacteria-filled planes can be.
Marketplace staff swabbed the seatbelt, tray table, headrest, seat pocket and bathroom handle, collecting over 100 samples in total.
The samples were then taken to microbiologist Keith Warriner, who analysed them at a lab at the University of Guelph. He tested for different types of bacteria, plus yeastm mould, E.coli and other pathogens. And the results are terrifying – and super gross.
“I was really amazed about how much we actually recovered from them. Some of them more scary than others,” Warriner told Marketplace.
Almost half of the swabbed surfaces had enough bacteria or yeast and mould for someone to risk getting an infection – with yeast and mould being found on the majority of the 18 flights taken. Which means the surface areas inside the planes were not cleaned well, or often enough to kill bacteria.
The headrest and the seat pocket were the areas with the highest level of bacteria – and Warriner told Marketplace that the fact that E. coli bacteria was detected on both areas was extremely concerning.
E. coli indicates fecal contamination, BTW, and it can cause intestinal infections with symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Yuck.
“We’ve got to try and think how would fecal contamination get inside [the seat pocket],” said Warriner.
As part of the investigation, Marketplace spoke to over a dozen flight attendants, most of whom confirmed that the planes often can’t be cleaned properly in the short turnaround between flights.
Connor Remus, a former flight attendant, told Marketplace that it wasn’t surprising that the seat pocket had a high level of bacteria.
“Everything goes in there; everything from the paper-thin vomit bags, to used wrappers… I found used tampons in seat pockets before,” he said.
He also confirmed that a total disinfection of the plane rarely happened.
“It definitely was not a huge priority. And when it was a priority, it wasn’t necessarily for cleanliness, it was for an esthetic purpose,” Remus added.
You can read the full investigation here.