MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Without thinking, people insert their credit cards and reach for the handle to pump gas. Yet, millions of microbes expose these fillers to unimaginable microscopic horrors, including fecal matter.
Walter Nunez was pumping his gas when CBS4’s David Sutta asked him about it.
“It’s not a top concern, priority. But it should be,” he said.
His tune changed as soon as Sutta told him about the poop on the pump he just let go of.
“That changes everything. I never thought about fecal. I just thought about little bacteria,” he said.
A year ago, CBS4 did a series of tests of everyday things like phones, ATM keypads and gas station pumps.
CBS4 swabbed the surfaces and handed it over to Nova Southeastern University microbiology students to find out what they contained.
As expected it all was covered in bacteria.
But the most shocking find was the gas pumps were laced in fecal matter.
NSU Professor Dr. Julie Torruellas-Garcia explained, “Since there is a fecal matter there that means there could be other bacteria that are more dangerous, that could cause diarrhea.”
Antonio Lyon, founder of a company called U-Glove, explained it’s very easy to be exposed.
“Virus and bacteria can live on almost any surface between 24 and 48 hours. So you have someone coming in with the flu, they sneeze, grab the nozzle. That’s all it takes for you to get it if you come next,” said Lyon.
Lyon, 28, came across the solution 6 years ago during a fill-up in Spain.
His idea is disposable gloves next to the pump.
“It’s as simple as pulling out one glove, putting it on and getting ready to fill up your tank,” Lyon demonstrated.
The glove keeps the gas smell off people’s hands, plus bacteria and viruses can’t fit through the pores of the gloves. When the person is done they can just trash it.
So why isn’t this a standard everywhere already?
“To be honest with you (Sutta), here in the states it’s a question of who pays for this?” Lyon said.
In order to circumvent this conundrum, Lyon said advertisements on the gloves could be the source of funding. This would keep the gloves free for users.
“Consumers spend anywhere between three and five minutes at the pump, filling up their tanks. So for an advertiser we are talking about that much time of having a captive audience, wearing their message,” said Lyon.
Two years ago Lyon took a leap of faith.
He quit his day job and moved to America to make U-Gloves.
He had no doubt he’s going to make it.
“Absolutely! No doubt about it. No doubt about it. It’s a necessity. It’s free. There is no reason for somebody who’s filling up his or her tank not to where a glove,” he said.
Sutta took to the streets to ask a few drivers about their thoughts on the gloves.
Steve Sweeny said it was an interesting idea, but he probably wouldn’t use it.
“If I were to walk over to the station and pull the door handle it’s the same problem,” he said. “It’s okay. I appreciate the thought. But I think my solution with the hand wipes is going to work better.”
Nunez on the other hand thought it was a great idea.
“If it’s free and it’s sanitary, why not? I don’t see why it shouldn’t be a good public service,” said Nunez.
Some people may have problems with all the waste from user tossing gloves into cans all day. But Lyon had an answer for that problem too.
“Over 80 percent of the waste generated at the typical gas station consists of recyclable material. Recyclable plastic. Bottles and all these things. Our gloves are recyclable,” he said.
He said they are considering introducing recycling programs for gas stations down the line.
The U-Glove rolls out in 500 stores across South Florida by the end of the year. The company plans to launch nationally next year.