After living in dorms for almost two months, it becomes very apparent that we are living in a petri dish. All of my friends have had some type of sickness. It’s safe to say that I’ve been washing my desk and everything in my room down with disinfectant wipes almost everyday. I guess It’s better to be safe than sorry. Germs are everywhere. Not only are they in our bathrooms, but they are on our desks. Many forget to remember that they are all over our cell phones that we consistently touch. So this got me thinking, how many germs are on our devices such as phones, computers, IPads and laptops? Can these germs make us sick? Lastly, are there more germs in the bathroom or on our cell phones?
Everywhere you look on campus people are carrying cell phones. I will be the first to admit that I touch mine more than a thousand times a day. Many fail to realize the number of germs that our on our cell phones. The Wall Street Journal did a study where they took three Blackberries and five iPhones and swabbed the phones. They found that the cell phones had 33,200 CFUs also known as Viable Fungi or Bacteria or Fungi, (Socha). The problem with the Wall Street Journal’s study is that it only studies eight cell phones, which in my opinion isn’t a large enough sample size. I wasn’t convinced about the amount of germs on our cell phones. So in order to prove that there are a significant amount of germs on cell phones, I looked for larger studies that found similar results to prove that the first experiment wasn’t just chance.
Through research I found two other larger studies. First, researcher James Francis took swabs from over thirty phones, tablets, keyboards, and one iPad. He found that the iPad had over 600 Staphylococcus aureus (Smartphones). This germ that was found all over the this iPad has the ability to produce toxins that could lead to food poisoning. Who would’ve thought that after touching your iPad a few times, a germ from it could possibly give you food poisoning (Centers)? Both studies seemed to prove the same thing that there are a significant amount of germs on the devices that we touch hundreds of times per day. We must remember that not only germs make us sick. Another study took cell phones from 100 college students. The authors of the study from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana found that there was, “veritable reservoirs of pathogens”(Calling). Pathogens are bacteria that can cause illness (Calling). In addition, “A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology the same year warned that some 20 to 30% of viruses can be readily transferred from a fingertip to a glass surface, like that on a touch screen”. Through Meta-analysis, it becomes clear that all the studies found that there are a significant amount of germs on our devices and that they aren’t just there due to chance.
Now that we know there are a ton of germs on our cell phones, we now must look at the germs that we find in bathrooms. Cleveland’s Department of Public Health found that a restroom door handle only has 4 CFU ( Socha). Now once you enter the restroom and go the bathroom, the toilet seat that you’re sitting on has about 3,200 CFUs on it (Socha). Remember from the study above that cell phones had 33,200 CFUS (Socha). Think about that for a second, your cell phone, according to this study has almost 10 times the amount of germs than the toilet seat that you sit on. The study done by the Cleveland Department of Public Health was a small one, so in order to prove that their finds were correct, I looked into other studies to see if the correlations between germs in bathrooms were the same. I found that an Assistant Professor from the University of Southern California collected swabs from a toilet. He found that the toilet only contained three kinds of bacteria and fungi (Bratskeir). This same Assistant Professor took swabs from cell phones and found that there were up to 10 to 12 different types of bacteria on them (Bratskeir).
In my opinion, these studies make perfect sense. If you think about all the places you put your cell phone throughout the day, this shouldn’t be surprising. Also, think about how many times you touch your cell phone to your face and all the times you eat something and touch your phone right after. The research above is able to reject the null hypothesis that bathrooms have more germs than our cell phones.
So the next time you are afraid to sit down on the toilet seat of a public restroom, remember that the device that is probably sitting on top of the toilet dispenser or in your pocket has lots more germs than the toilet seat you’re sitting on. After all, we must remember that the germs on our cell phones can even cause us to become sick. So wash your hands and stop touching your cell phone so much.
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