Here’s something to scream about: Halloween masks purchased at costume stores are apparently riddled with germs and bacteria. Gross.
A team of investigators from Arizona-based “3 On Your Side” went to a couple of Halloween stores and purchased about a dozen rubber masks. They took the masks to Dr. Stan Kikkert, who heads the biotechnology program at Mesa Community College just outside of Phoenix, to have them swabbed and tested for germs.
After Kikkert placed the swab samples inside an incubator, in order to let any bacteria the swabs may or may not have picked up to grow and multiply, he was “surprised” by the results. Every mask was full of living germs and bacteria, including microscopic mold and fungi.
“In terms of gross, it's definitely kind of disgusting looking at this data," Kikkert told “3 On Your Side.” "I was quite surprised at the number of bacteria and the diversity of the bacteria that you guys found on these different plates.”
Kikkert believes the germs in the Halloween masks come from the countless shoppers who try them on in the stores. Kikkert said if he were shopping for a mask, he’d probably find something that just covered his eyes and left his mucous membranes “kind of free.”
"The main danger is probably the potential of acquiring a skin infection from an organism like staphylococcus," he said.
The news that our Halloween masks are teeming with bacteria isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. This seems to be a story that circulates every now and then around Halloween. A 2010 article from KOB Eyewitness News noted a study done that year that produced similar results. After investigators swabbed the areas of a sample of masks where germs are most likely to accrue, such as the nose or mouth, they found every one of the masks was crawling with bacteria. According to KOB, almost every one tested positive for germs that cause pink eye, skin rashes and the common cold.
To be fair to the spirit of the holiday, Halloween masks are by no means the most germ-infested places you’ll encounter. A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Arizona showed that seemingly innocuous, everyday objects are actually cesspools of disease and infection. According to the Los Angeles Times, among the most bacteria-ridden places were mailbox handles, ATM buttons, escalator rails, parking meters and crosswalk buttons.
The germiest of them all, according to the study? Gas pump handles.
Restaurants, too, are thriving with germs. The Huffington Post reported in November 2012 on a study of restaurant hygiene which found the dirtiest places in restaurants were actually the seats. The reason may be that, unlike more obvious dirty spots like the bathroom, restaurant workers don’t think to sanitize the chairs.
Menus, too, were found to be riddled with germs. These were followed closely by lemon wedges, salt and pepper shakers, tables, the rims of glasses and bathroom doorknobs.
Our advice when it comes to Halloween shopping is, don’t try anything on in the store until you can get home and sanitize it. Then wear it to your heart’s content!
Philip Ross joined IBTimes in March 2013. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from New York University and a B.A. in International Development Studies from the University of...