A breeding ground for the flu, diarrhoea and eye infections: Is your smartphone making you sick?
Our increasing reliance on smartphones is making us more prone to sickness because the electronic devices are such dangerous breeding grounds for bacteria.
Doctors are warning that the combination of a cellphone's close proximity to your ears, nose and mouth with its bacteria-loving warmth, means people are exposing themselves to germs that are harmful to their health.
Tests have found that smartphones typically carry as many germs as the handle of a bathroom door. Common illness that can be caught include the flu, diarrhoea and eye infections.
The studies point to a lack of proper hygiene and adequate hand-washing by smartphone users.
The type of germs found on your cellphone can also be found on other everyday devices including computers, keys, pens and landline phones.
However the risks are greater from cell phone usage because people are so now attached to them and take them everywhere including to bed, the treadmill at the gym and restaurant tables.
Smartphones carry an abnormally high numbers of coliforms, a bacteria indicating fecal contamination.
Of the eight phones tested by HML Labs of Muncie, Ind., there were between about 2,700 and 4,200 units of coliform bacteria. In drinking water, the limit is less than one unit per 100 ml of water.
For some of the bacteria, you only need to ingest as few as 10 organisms to get sick.
'We're feeding the little creatures,' Michael Schmidt, a professor and vice chairman of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina told WSJ.
'We've all seen that greasy smear [on the touch screen]. Where there is grease, there are bugs.'
The Journal of Applied Microbiology published a study in 2011 which found that some 20-30% of viruses can be readily transferred from a fingertip to a glass surface, like that on a touch screen.
The University of Cape Coast in Ghana also studied cellphone usage amongst 100 college studies and noted both the high concentration and diversity of bacteria on phones.
Users concerned about exposure to germs via your phone are advised to proceed with caution before deciding how to keep their device clean as some common house cleaners may potentially damage your phone by stripping the screen coating.
In its customer manual, Apple explicitly forbids the use of 'window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia or abrasives.'
BlackBerry's manual similarly states: 'Do not use liquid, aerosol cleaners, or solvents on or near your BlackBerry device.
Google's Android phone platform don't carry an official policy on cleaning methods.
In a test carried out for WSJ, alcohol cleaned almost 100% of the bacteria, while plain water proved to be the least effective method. The other's tested were Windex Original glass cleaner and Nice 'N Clean electronic cleaning wipes.