UK Survey Reveals Cell Phones Are Contaminated
October 14, 2011

UK Survey Reveals Cell Phones Are Contaminated

New research has found that one in six British mobile phones is contaminated with traces of E. coli bacteria because people all too often go without washing their hands.

The research was released ahead of Global Handwashing Day, which is this Saturday. Experts say the most likely reason for the bacteria found on so many gadgets is people are failing to properly wash their hands with soap and hot water after using the toilet.

Furthermore, more than nine in ten mobile phones have some form of bacteria on them, including Staphylococcus aureus, which is better known as MRSA.

The UK-wide study by scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London, also revealed that Britons have a tendency to lie about their hygiene habits.

The study team took 390 samples of bacteria from the hands and phones of people in 12 British cities. While 95 percent of the participants claimed to wash their hands with soap whenever they could, the team found 92 percent of phones and 82 percent of hands had some form of bacteria on them.

The team also found 16 percent of hands and phones contained E. coli, which is transmitted in feces. About 31 percent of hands and 25 percent of phones were also contaminated with MRSA, which is naturally present in our skin but can become dangerous if transferred between people.

Once bacteria is transported to a mobile phone or other handheld gadget, it can survive easily because the surfaces are hard to clean, frequently warmed up when the device is used, and usually sprayed with proteins when people speak into the receiver.

The bacteria can easily be transported back to our hands even after washing, and also to our ears and faces where they can infect any scratches or wounds, and can infect other people who handle the gadget.

Study leader, Dr. Ron Cutler, said some devices were “crawling” with germs. “We found a direct link between how dirty your hands were and how dirty your phone was ... If people did wash their hands properly with soap this link would not exist.”

“Our analysis revealed some interesting results from around the UK. While some cities did much better than others, the fact that E. coli was present on phones and hands in every location shows this is a nationwide problem. People may claim they wash their hands regularly but the science shows otherwise,” added Cutler.

“This study provides more evidence that some people still don´t wash their hands properly, especially after going to the toilet. I hope the thought of having E. coli on their hands and phones encourages them to take more care in the bathroom — washing your hands with soap is such a simple thing to do but there is no doubt it saves lives,” said Dr. Val Curtis, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who is also UK campaign leader for Global Handwashing Day and study co-author.
Every year, as many as 3.5 million children under the age of five are killed by pneumonia and diarrhetic diseases. One of the most effective ways of preventing these illnesses is washing hands with soap. In developed countries, hand washing with soap helps prevent the spread of viral infections such as norovirus, rotavirus and influenza.

“Today´s research is shocking and demonstrates the importance of effective hygiene. It is critical that people take hand hygiene seriously and that businesses offer their employees and customers a practical way of protecting themselves to help combat the spread of illness,” Peter Barratt, technical manager at Initial Washroom Solutions, which supports Global Handwashing Day, told The Telegraph.

Global Handwashing Day aims to transform the action of washing hands with soap into an automatic behavior. Initiatives and events to promote the practice in homes, schools, workplaces, hospitals and communities are held worldwide.

The UK Global Handwashing coalition includes several major companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Initial Washroom Solutions, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, School Councils UK, University of London, and Wellcome Trust. 

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