London: The next time you take out money from an automated teller machine (ATM), make sure you either wear gloves or wash your hands. Cleanliness tests have revealed that cash machines are as dirty and carry the same germs as public toilets.
Health experts took swabs from the numeric key pads on a string of ATMs around Britain that are used by thousands of shoppers every day.
They then took similar swabs from the seats of nearby public toilets and compared the bacteria under microscopes in a lab.
The swabs were left to grow overnight and samples from both locations were found to contain pseudomonads and bacillus - bacteria known to cause sickness and diarrhoea, according to the Daily Mail.
Richard Hastings, microbiologist for BioCote, a company that produces anti-bacterial products, said: "We were interested in comparing the levels of bacterial contamination between heavily-used ATM machines and public toilets."
"We were surprised by our results because the ATM machines were shown to be heavily contaminated with bacteria, to the same level as nearby public toilets."
BioCote carried out the tests after a survey which revealed Britons consider public toilets to be the biggest health risk.
The study of 3,000 adults also revealed public telephones are considered the biggest health risk.
Fears over germs spreading saw almost a quarter of people labelling public telephones as "very dirty" with more than one in 10 wiping the handset and buttons down before using one.
And 48 percent of people - 23 millions adults - even avoid using them altogether unless they have to because they are concerned about the dirt or bugs they may pick up from it.
The third place in the study went to bus stops, while the dusty and grimy atmosphere in London Underground and metro stations saw them ranked fourth.
Seats on a bus completed the top five, with one in 10 people admitting they regularly try to clean or cover them before sitting down.
Tube and tram seats followed close behind in sixth place while cash machines were at number seven.
"Public telephones can be a real hotspot for germs and grime. Not only are they handled by different people each day, but the handsets are then held close to people's nose and mouth. All it takes is for one person to have a cold or bug and this would get passed on to everyone else who uses the phone," Hastings said.