How Sharing Cell Phones Can Get You More Than Just Roaming Fees
Over the last decade, cell phones became a staple of society. Over the last five years, cell phones became a way of life. In just a few short years, they became less about making a call and more about social networking. Now, you can hold the world in the palm of your hands – but it’s more than the Internet you have at the tips of your fingers. That bright, HD screen is also home to thousands of germs and potentially harmful strains of bacteria, all just waiting for you to hit “Send.”
The trouble with cell phones is they use energy, and energy creates heat. The heat from the phone creates a breeding ground for bacteria, which needs warm climates to survive and cultivate. So really, your phone screen works a little like a petri dish. And thanks to touchscreen technology, every time you play Angry Birds, you’re dipping your fingers into a prospective bacteria colony.
In the U.K., a team of researchers collected samples from 390 random cell phones in 12 different cities. The results: 92% of the phones carried some type of pathogen, 16% of which were contaminated with E. coli. (Escherichia coli); which means there’s a 16% chance you’re smearing E. coli. infected fecal matter on your face and fingers every time you use your phone.
While this may be news to some, (and disgusting to many), it comes as no surprise to Dr. Charles Gerba. Dr. Gerba has spent years searching for the bacteria lurking where we least suspect it, and this cell phone revelation is nothing new to him. According to Gerba, no one cleans their phone, and germs and bacteria like E.coli, influenza, and even MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) can easily thrive and spread on them. He explains, “Nobody ever cleans or disinfects their phone, so the germs and bacteria just keep building up.” Dr. Gerba’s research at the University of Arizona estimates nearly 25,000 germs per square inch on an average cell phone. If the average phone is 8 square inches, that puts 200,000 germs quite literally in the palm of your hand.
While this isn’t exactly a good thing, it isn’t anything worth panicking about, either; at least not until you start sharing cell phones. Microbiologist Susan Lehnhof of Timpanogos Hospital claims, “It isn’t necessarily a problem as long as the germs all come from you.” But once you borrow your roommate’s phone because you can’t find you own, you open yourself up to new viruses and bacteria. To make matters worse, in a survey done by American Standard, 88% of Americans admitted to using at least one electronic device in the bathroom, while 15% admitted to talking on the phone. So if you are not part of that 88%, your roommate probably is.
Again, think “touch screen.”
Multiple studies have been done on cell phone hygiene, but the word is not spreading (you can be sure the bacteria is, though). To lessen your own exposure and that of those around you, disinfect your phone regularly; during cold and flu seasons, disinfect even more. While you don’t want to spray disinfectant directly on your phone (there is a risk of causing damage), disinfectant wipes or an anti-microbial solution on a soft towel will do the trick. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. “Urine” Feces Everywhere, so remember to wash your hands as often as possible to prevent the spread of bacteria to not only your phone, but other public surfaces and equipment.