Cellphones are breeding grounds for bacteria

“I can’t believe I have another ear infection!” Angie said recently. “It’s the third one I’ve had this winter. And, don’t tell me I don’t wash my hands enough, I wash them so often they’re as dry as the desert.”

Her RN sister quickly asked, “When’s the last time you cleaned your cellphone?” Angie thought for a minute and didn’t answer, probably because like many of us, it’s not very often since wiping the smudges off on the back of your pants doesn’t count as cleaning.

Angie works at a childcare facility, so she’s constantly exposed to that petri dish of baby boogers, poop and bacteria. The rest of us think nothing of using our phones while eating, after shaking someone’s hand, while handling money, pressing elevator buttons or using the toilet. Then we put those germs to our faces.

An article in Bonner General Health’s employee newsletter this month quotes a blog by Patrick Boshell who is part of the Deb Canada Hand Hygiene, Infection Prevention and Food Safety Group. He says that our cellphones are “one of the filthiest things you come in contact with on a daily basis.” A study found that each square inch of your cellphone contains roughly 25,000 germs. What’s acceptable? About 100.

He also says that toilet seats are cleaner than our phones. What? Well, you probably disinfect your toilet more often and public restrooms are likely to be sanitized more frequently than you clean your cellphone.

“According to Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona says that this is not surprising, ‘Nobody ever cleans or disinfects their phone, so the germs and bacteria just keep building up.’ What types of germs you may ask? E.coli, as well as influenza and MRSA,” Bothell wrote.

“As we use our phones frequently it remains warm, creating the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. ‘With the advent of touch-screen phones, the same part of the phone you touch with your fingertips is pressed right up against your face and mouth, upping your chances of infection,’ Dr. Gerba adds.”

Boshell referenced a study conducted by the Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials that explored some of the terrifying germs and summarized details from a study involving 200 phones:

“The researchers found that 94.5 percent of the phones were contaminated with some kind of bacteria, many of which were resistant to multiple antibiotics. By also testing the participants’ hands, the researchers were able to show that a significant number of germs were transferred from their hands to their phones, and vice versa. In fact, about 30 percent of the bacteria on the phones ended up on the owners hands,” Boshell wrote.

The question now begs to be asked. How do you clean your cellphone? www.Buzzfeed.com gave the most comprehensive answer with a video. They say that if you think sanitizing is as simple as cleaning your phone with an antibacterial wipe you should think again. Wipes can be abrasive and damage or scratch your phone.

The recipe is bottled water (it’s purer than tap water), 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, one mini spray bottle and one microfiber or lint-free cloth. Fill the bottle half full of water and add the same amount of alcohol. Screw the cap on and shake the bottle to mix it up. Spray the cloth lightly with the solution.

“Never spray the solution directly on your phone. Instead, spray the cloth once or twice, but don’t get it completely wet. Rub it all over your entire phone. The alcohol in the solution will allow it to dry pretty quickly, so you’ll be ready to use your phone again in no time,” Buzzfeed says. They also say to do this once a week, not every day as the solution can damage the screen if used too often. For daily cleaning use the microfiber cloth without the alcohol.

Angie said that they were very diligent about cleaning toys every day, but now she’ll be meticulous about cleaning not only her cellphone, but the remote controls and computer keyboards. Will you?

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.