Escalators dirtier than toilets, tests show

Local | Sophie Hui 20 Aug 2019

The handrails of a popular escalator in the Mid-Levels were found to be dirtier than toilet seats, according to lab results.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong conducted a lab test in May, which involved swabbing the handrails of 19 escalators in the morning on a weekday.

Among the 19 escalators in the system, the test found a total bacterial count that ranged from 10 to 1,900 colony-forming units per square meter.

The dirtiest part was the escalator connecting Caine Road to Mosque Street as the handrails contained a total bacterial count of 1,900 CFU per sq m, while the total bacterial count of toilet seats at people's homes are around 1,200 CFU.

DAB lawmaker Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan said the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator and Walkway System is one of the busiest escalator systems in Hong Kong as about 78,000 people use it every day. As a result, it is "a hotbed for spreading bacteria."

Cheung said Mid-Levels'residents use the escalators on a daily basis, and the poor hygiene conditions can affect their health.

Currently, the escalators are cleaned by cleaning workers, but Cheung urged the government to adopt new technology and introduce ultraviolet sterilizers to improve the overall cleanliness.

Samuel Mok Kam-sum, the party's community officer, touched the handrails on all 19 escalators and the total bacterial count on his palm was 130 times higher than before he touched the handrails.

Mok added that the World Health Organization and local authorities don't have a safety standard in regards to the bacteria count on such surfaces.

But, he believes high levels of bacteria will pose threats to citizens' health and thus reminded people to wash their hands before eating.

"At the moment, as I understand, the cleaning frequency [of the escalators] is about one time per week - which is insufficient," he said.

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