One in six mobile phones contaminated with fecal matter
October 27, 2011 at 4:31 PM CDT - Updated June 25 at 7:01 PM
JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A recent study showed one in six mobile phones were contaminated with fecal matter.
Health researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine attributed the results of the study to people not washing their hands properly after using the restroom.
The findings from 390 samples from mobile phones and hands in 12 cities showed that 92% of the phones and 82% of the hands tested had bacteria on them.
Sixteen percent of the hands and phones were contaminated with fecal bacteria.
Arkansas State University professor Stacy Walz is not surprised by the results of the UK study. "There's for F's to disease transmission, flies, feces, fomites and fingers, fomites being inanimate objects," she said. "(In the study) we have cell phones, an inanimate object. We have fingers, which are always touching cell phones."
Fecal matter can survive for several hours on skin and surfaces for several hours.
ASU professor Bill Payne said the public needs to remember not all bacteria are harmful. "We couldn't exist in this world without bacteria. There's bacteria that are found in the gut that supply vitamin K, and they also keep harmful bacteria from establishing themselves in the colon."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, washing hands regularly can prevent one million deaths a year.
The UK study is part of the Global Handwashing Day campaign that focuses on changing the handwashing habits of people.
KAIT decided to put cell phones in Region 8 to the test.
Professors Walz and Payne at the clinical laboratory at ASU analyzed 20 cell phones for harmful bacteria. One phone was contaminated with coliform, a bacteria commonly used as an indicator for unsanitary conditions.
Professor Payne isolated non-harmful bacteria such as diphtheroids and staphylococci on the remaining 19 phones. "It wasn't anything we didn't expect to be there. It was mostly bacteria found on your skin."
Although the unscientific study revealed only one contaminated phone Professor Walz cautioned against neglecting good hygiene. "We should still wash our hands. We should still use hygienic means to be about in the world."