Reader beware: if you're an anxious commuter, you should skip this list of 5 things you didn't want to know about escalators.
1. Germ Conveyor Belts
People aren't the only passengers on escalators. The handrail is also an express lane for all sorts of germs thanks to the dirty hands touching them all day. Researchers have found traces of blood, mucous, urine and feces on handrails, which are can also be home to dangerous pathogens like E. coli.
But those aren't the only hazards lurking on the revolving staircase.
2. Foot Mutilations
If you have little ones, you should keep an eye on those toothy plates at the bottom of escalators. They've been involved in a number of injuries over the years. Just google three words - 'kids' + 'escalator' + 'Crocs' - and you'll get a number of horror stories about kids having toes gashed and nails torn after their plastic footwear got caught in the revolving stairs.
And in 2007, a two-year-old girl in Singapore lost her big toe to an escalator.
Children aren't the only victims of escalator accidents. According to the CDC, approximately 10,200 Americans are seriously injured by escalators every year. And America records an average of 1.6 deaths due to escalators per year. Most of those incidents involve people hired to install or repair escalators, but there are exceptions.
4. Drawstring Asphyxiation
In 2013, Maurecio Bell of Washington state fell down an escalator at and died after the drawstring of his hoodie got pulled underneath the machine's teeth. Normally an obstruction like that would trigger a sensor designed to stop the stairs from moving. But the safety mechanism failed. And by the time a passerby hit the emergency stop switch, it was too late to save Bell from an excruciating death.
“This thing just kept chewing on him till he strangled to death. It didn't happen instantly,” said Tomas Gahan - the attorney representing Bell's family in the wrongful death suit filed against the metro station where the fatal accident occurred.
5. 1987 King's Cross
The biggest escalator catastrophe happened in England back in 1987, when a huge jet of flames rushed up a wooden escalator at London's King's Cross railway station and into the crowded ticket hall. Investigators believe the fire started beneath the escalator, where debris had been piling up over the years - like crumbs under a couch cushion. But these bits of litter became soaked in engine grease. So when a lit match fell underneath the escalator, the stockpile erupted into flames, killing 31 people.