Men are messier than women, and their bathrooms smell more, but you may be more likely to encounter an illness-causing bug in the ladies room.
That's the conclusion of Chuck Gerba, a Ph.D. who surveyed 50 public restrooms in Phoenix. Gerba found that certain bacteria, which indicate the presence of other, illness-causing germs, were twice as prevalent in women's restrooms compared to men's.
The reason? "Women spend twice as long as men in the restrooms, and they're more likely to bring kids in with them," he said.
Among his other observations:
+ Restrooms in bus stations and airports were the worst offenders, probably because of the large volume of people who use them.
+ The greatest contamination was in restrooms with one stall or more than four. "If there's just one stall, everybody uses it. If there's more than four, it's probably a high-traffic bathroom."
+ Gerba's studies of men's rooms found that most people pick a middle or end stall and avoid the first one; the same may be true of women's rooms too.
The best defense against all this germ activity is washing your hands thoroughly, says Gerba. Soap and water can wipe out these micro-organisms before they get transmitted to your mouth or food and make you sick.