Your Smartphone Could Be Making You Sick


| 2 Comments

Smartphones are all the rage these days and most people won't leave their house without it. Not only is it a phone, but a computer, and we use it for just about everything. The scary truth is that because it is constantly in use and goes everywhere you go, it is a breeding ground for bacteria and can actually be harmful to your health.

Smartphones carry bacteria called coliform that indicates fecal contamination. One study concluded that smartphones are as dirty as bathroom doors! The germs found on smartphones are the same germs found on computers, keys, and pens but the health risks are greater with smartphones because they are with us everywhere. We have our smartphones at the gym, at work, during lunch, and by our pillow at night and are continuously close to our ears and mouths. 

A study reported in the Wall Street Journal tested eight random phones from an office in Chicago and found 2,700 and 4,200 units of coliform bacteria. You only need to ingest as few as 10 organisms of some of these bacteria to get sick, "Bacteria from a phone can cause flu, pinkeye or diarrhea".  The bacteria from our phones could also explain one of the causes of acne.

So how can we avoid this health risk when we feel as though we need our phones? The best way to reduce the risk would be to keep good hygiene by washing your hands and also regularly cleaning your smartphone. Here are some tips from ABC News and PC World on how to clean your smartphone.

I wonder if it is possible to make a smartphone that doesn't attract bacteria. Maybe if the phone didn't heat up like a lot of smartphone or a different material is used to make the phones then it would attract fewer amounts of bacteria. Headsets would also be a better solution to use than having the phone touching your face. However, if we start using headphones every time we make a phone call, won't the headphones start attracting more and more bacteria? It is scary that one of the closes devices you have can be harmful to your health. We might not always be able to avoid bacteria but we can take actions to reduce our risks of exposure.

2 Comments

I find it interesting that our smartphones are covered with thousands of germs because I’ve never really thought about this before but it makes a lot of sense. Like you say it is pretty scary that one of the items we keep closest to us can harm us. It’s kind of funny at the same time though because I think of the saying “keep your friends close but your enemies closer”.

I wouldn’t believe that our phones are as dirty as bathroom doors though because the average person doesn’t have hundreds of people touching it every day. I am grossed out from what the Wall Street Journal concluded though. This experiment’s implications are pretty straightforward. The fact that a random selection of eight phones had at least 2,700 of the coliform bacteria has me believing in the hypothesis that our cell phones are dangerous for us. I have next to no doubt in the hypothesis because the hypothesis is that our phones pick up multiple germs from going everywhere with us. This study was another one that did not need a control. The only possible control that could have been put in place was providing multiple people with brand new phones then testing it for germs annually to see if the germs accumulate. If they do this could have had an impact on how many germs were found on the phones. Other than this no other control would be needed to prove the hypothesis. There also is only one possible third confounding variable, cleanliness of the phone owner. For example, if the owners of the phones tested are the type to not wash their hands after going to the bathroom that could have an effect on how many germs were on their smartphones. I don’t believe that there are any other third variables that exist other than that.

This post got me wondering about coliform bacteria, so I did research on it. I found that that the main place it lives in is water. I also found that if one drinks water that contains coliform it can possibly lead to destroyed red blood cells (aka a kidney condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome). Therefore this disease is more serious than I thought.

I agree that doing things like keeping good hygiene will lessen people’s chances of getting sick from their excessive cell phone use. As you stated I agree that there is no way that we can escape germs but we can decrease the chances that they will affect us.

Works Cited

1. "Coliform Bacteria in Water." - Vermont Department of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. .

2. Board, A.D.A.M. Editorial. "Hemolytic-uremic Syndrome." Hemolytic-uremic Syndrome. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. .

Makes me think twice about where I transfer my germs and what I pick up or put near my face. I find it really surprising that a cell phone can carry more germs than a bathroom. On your question of anti-bacterial phones, maybe they can somehow work using heat from the phone to kill the bacteria. Also, I wanted to note on the causation effect. Aren't there are confounding variables in this correlation? Meaning that it isn't the cellphone itself that is getting you sick, but there are other reasons why the cellphones gather bacteria which end up making you sick?

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