Research shows smartphones can contain alarming amounts of bacteria

Germs may cause skin, breathing problems

Author: Matt Papaycik, Producer, mpapaycik@wkmg.com
Published On: May 30 2013 11:11:10 PM EDT   Updated On: May 30 2013 11:42:56 PM EDT
cell phone
ORLANDO, Fla. -

Calling, texting, emailing -- you name it and you probably do it on your smartphone. But all that pushing, typing, and swiping means that you're spreading germs.

According to the latest research, the surface of your smartphone can have more bacteria than a toilet seat.

We carried out our own experiment, randomly swabbing the phones of volunteers to see how much bacteria they contained.

Our first volunteer, a man, admitted to having poor phone hygiene, saying he never cleans his phone. After swabbing his phone, Local 6 sent the sample to a lab.

Scientists found two different types of bacteria present, which are measured in CFUs, or Colony Forming Units. The phone had 40 CFUs. which scientists say is surprisingly low. That guy was surprised himself, seeing as he never cleans his phone.

But our second volunteer, a woman, says she disinfects her phone every other day -- yet she had a lot of bacteria, at 130 CFUs, lab results show.

"Wherever you go, you are touching things, and you know you washed your hands, but you don't know about the other people," the woman said.

As for the dirtiest phone -- it belonged to our third volunteer, a man who says he thinks about everything he touches.

"I always have hand sanitizer with me, in the vehicle, at the house, everywhere," he says.

But despite that sanitizer, his phone with loaded with bacteria -- 930 CFUs -- by far the higher number. Why so high? He thinks it's because of his daughter, who loves to play with his phone.

"She's touching all surfaces, I mean anything that she can get her hands on, she'll touch it ," he says.

The latest research out of London finds that the bacteria on our phones can be dangerous -- causing skin rashes, breathing problems, even food poisoning.

"Overall, most phones have some bacteria on them and the studies range from about five to about 25 percent have bacteria that can actually cause disease in people," says Dr. Jason Bowling, an epidemiologist.

To clean your phone, doctors recommend using an alcohol wipe, like the kind you find at CVS, at least once a week.

You can also use a Q-tip, dip it in rubbing alcohol, then run it over the surface of your phone.