The Grossest Things You Will Breathe on the Subway

No way out.

  • No way out.

Listen, today is not a great day for subway news. And I know you know the subway is gross. Even when it’s kind of empty and air conditioned and doesn’t smell like some kind of moving, large-scale dutch oven, it’s gross. All the hands that touched this pole before you, and what they touched before the pole, or maybe who sat on that seat before you if you’re wearing a short skirt or shorts and jesus christ maybe let’s just all stay home and agree to keep in touch via the internet.

But even that wouldn’t work, because you know what you can never, ever escape? Air. And, thanks to an enterprising group of Colorado scientists, we now know pretty exactly what subway air (and street air, which is largely the same thing, apparently) is comprised of. It could all be much worse—the full report clarifies, “we encountered no organisms of public health concern,” which is great—but learning about the fungi and “human skin commensal bacteria” we suck into our lungs on a daily basis could also be, well, a lot less gross. Let’s explore.