There is no escape from germs, especially if you share an office break room. The office common space may be crawling with germs which may make you think twice about that afternoon coffee.

The office common space may be designed to be a break room for employees, complete with a coffee station and a microwave, but it is also a convenient gathering place for germs. While every office employee, current and former, know the perils of the office bathroom, the break room was supposed to be a safe haven where one could sit down, eat lunch and not stare at a computer screen.

These findings were led by Charles Gerba, PhD, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. Researchers took nearly 5,000 individual swabs of various common office appliances in office buildings housing more than 3,000 employees. The office buildings housed law firms, insurance companies, manufacturing facilities call centers and healthcare companies.

The study used the Hygiena SystemSURE II™ Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) Meter to test for cleanliness. According to the study, ATP is present in all mold and yeast cells. Using the ATP meter, a reading of 300 or more indicates a high risk of disease transmission while a reading between 100 and 300 indicates unsatisfactory cleanliness.

Of all the surfaces tested, 75 percent of break room faucet handles had ATP readings of 300 or more. Nearly half, 48 percent, of microwave door handles had ATP readings of 300 or more. Other appliances that had ATP readings of 300 or more included 27 percent of keyboards, 26 percent of refrigerator door handles, 23 percent of water foundation buttons and 21 percent of vending machine buttons.

While computer mice and office phones were not risky disease transmitters, they were still pretty unclean. According to the study, around half of the mice and phones tested had ATP readings of more than 100. While you may take care in making sure your personal space is somewhat clean, there is still some work to be done.

Exposure to germs can leave you with a cold, flu or other illness. Germs are everywhere and in an office setting, contamination is quite common. Next time you throw that frozen dinner in the microwave, make sure to wash your hands after you touch the microwave and before you delve into those leftovers from last night.

The study was funded and led by Kimberly-Clark, a leading cleaning supply manufacturer.