Next time you pick up a call, think about the fact that research from the University of Arizona has found cellphones carry 10 times more bacteria than toilet seats.
“Phones get pretty germy. We are constantly putting bacteria on and off them all the time. You touch a door handle, then your phone, then your face over and over. Mobile phones are mobile germ devices,” said Charles Gerba, often called “Dr. Germ,” a microbiologist at the University of Arizona.
“People should from now on consider that one of the highest risks to becoming sick is because of their cellphones,” said Lotti Tajouri, associate professor of genomics and molecular biology at Bond University in Australia. “In every place we take our phones, we expose them with all sorts of contaminants, including a plethora of microbes including viruses and bacteria.”
Mobile phones could be acting as “Trojan horses” for coronavirus and other viruses, Tajouri said.
“Aren’t we taking them to fast food restaurants close to our meals or while we eat? We drop ‘valuable’ nutrients for these microbes to thrive,” he said. “Aren’t we at times taking mobile phones to bathrooms and so contaminate these devices with further, more numerous germs? These devices are indeed particular recipients for germs simply because we carry and bring them everywhere with us all the time, in all sorts of settings.
“Secondly, we never think of cleaning these. Mobile phones are the perfect breeding ground for thousands microorganisms to shelter on.”
Research has shown that phones can transmit serious diseases such as Streptococcus and MRSA, which are resistant to antibiotics, Gerba said.
Mobile phones are like five-star luxury hotels for microbes, Tajouri said.
“These microbes on mobile phones are viable, functionally active. These well-accommodated microbes on our mobile phones pose a huge risk for our health and public health,” he said.
All everyday objects harbor microbes, but touchscreen mobile phones are different because we touch them all the time, Tajouri said. If they’re dirty — contaminated with microbes — we are constantly exposed to those microbes from settings like buses, trains, doctor’s offices and grocery stores.
“These mobile phones are so handy for us to communicate but are also very dangerous Trojan horses for the simple reason that we host unnoticeable invisible microbes in the thousands, every day, and keep on hosting more and more of them everywhere we go,” Tajouri said. “You can wash your hands as many times as you like — and you should — but if you then touch a contaminated phone you are contaminating yourself all over again. Think of your phone as your third hand.”
Clean your phone often, especially any time after being out in public, Gerba said. “Also, don’t share your phone,” he said.
To clean your phone, use a disinfectant wipe that contains 70% isopropyl alcohol, Gerba said. If that’s not available, a soft microfiber cloth is a good alternative.
To ensure you do not damage your phone look up the manufacturer’s recommendations on how to clean it, Tajouri said.