You may have seen it in the news: Beards are filthy. So filthy, in fact, that they have more poop bacteria than toilet seats. Put down the razor! That doesn’t mean what you think it does.
Cutting boards, mobile phones and keyboards also have more faecal bacteria than toilet seats, which microbiologists know as one of the cleanest places in a house. Since there are bacteria all around us, including the species that are also found in our digestive tracts (where, by the way, they are typically harmless), you can find “faecal” bacteria pretty much anywhere you look.
It makes sense to test for faecal coliform bacteria (that is, bacteria that are, or look like, E. coli) in places like water wells: not because those bacteria are always going to make you sick, but because they indicate that sewage may be mixing with the water supply, and that’s a plumbing issue that needs to be fixed before any real poop-borne diseases (like norovirus, cholera, salmonella, or the rare dangerous versions of E. coli like O157:H7) find their way in. On surfaces in our houses and workplaces though, a few faecal bacteria are going to turn up from time to time. You can’t keep every last poop germ in the bathroom, no matter how hard you try.
So what about the study on those poopy beards? There wasn’t a real study, just a TV news station swabbing a few beards and sending the samples off for testing. (Revealing germs in allegedly surprising places is a time-honored pastime of TV news shows.) Beards are, however, fairly clean. We know this from actual scientific research, like this study published last year in the Journal of Hospital Infection, which found that bearded hospital workers don’t carry more bacteria on their faces than clean-shaven ones. (In fact, they were less likely to carry certain potentially disease-causing bacteria.)
Read the full post at Chicagoist for more on beards’ cleanliness and how it has been studied in the past. Spoiler: chickens were involved.
Stop Attacking Beards With Your Shitty Science [Chicagoist]