Mind & Body

Dead Skin Is In The Air In Subway Systems

Several million people ride the New York City subway system every single day. As you might imagine, it's not quite the picture of cleanliness. According to research conducted in 2007 and 2008 by biologists from the University of Colorado, 15% of the matter analyzed in New York City subway system air consisted of human skin. Most of this skin came from the heads and heels of riders, but smaller portions originated from riders' belly buttons, ears, underarms, and rear ends.

The air is just one place to find pollutants in the subway. Christopher Mason of Cornell University tested samples from every subway station in New York City to map the bacteria. His study, published in 2015, states that traces of disease like the bubonic plague, meningitis, and staph infections were present. "Our data show evidence that most bacteria in these densely populated, highly trafficked transit areas are neutral to human health, and much of it is commonly found on the skin or in the gastrointestinal tract," Mason said. "These bacteria may even be helpful, since they can out-compete any dangerous bacteria." Watch the video below to learn more about Mason's research.

Mapping The Bacteria In The NYC Subway

Dr. Christopher Mason found all sorts of bacteria in NYC subways.

Mass NYC Subway Swab Could Change Public Health

Is it currently too dangerous down there?

The Art Of New York City's Bacterial World

Can NYC's bacteria become art?

Written by Curiosity Staff September 1, 2016

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.