Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Contamination of UK mobile phones and hands revealed

14.10.2011
One in six mobile phones in the UK is contaminated with fecal bacteria, researchers found

One in six mobile phones in Britain is contaminated with faecal matter, according to new research released ahead of Global Handwashing Day.

Experts say the most likely reason for the potentially harmful bacteria festering on so many gadgets is people failing to wash their hands properly with soap after going to the toilet.

The findings of the UK-wide study by scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London also reveal a tendency among Britons to lie about their hygiene habits.

Although 95% of people said they washed their hands with soap where possible, 92% of phones and 82% of hands had bacteria on them. Worryingly, 16% of hands and 16% of phones were found to harbour E. coli – bacteria of a faecal origin. Harmful E. coli (Escherichia coli) is associated with stomach upsets and has been implicated in serious cases of food poisoning such as the fatal O157 outbreak in Germany in June.

Hygiene expert and UK campaign leader for Global Handwashing Day Dr Val Curtis, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "This study provides more evidence that some people still don't wash their hands properly, especially after going to the toilet. I hope the thought of having E. coli on their hands and phones encourages them to take more care in the bathroom – washing your hands with soap is such a simple thing to do but there is no doubt it saves lives."

Peter Barratt, Technical Manager at Initial Washroom Solutions, which supports Global Handwashing Day, said: "Today's research is shocking and demonstrates the importance of effective hygiene. It is critical that people take hand hygiene seriously and that businesses offer their employees and customers a practical way of protecting themselves to help combat the spread of illness."

Researchers travelled to 12 cities and took 390 samples from mobile phones and hands which were analysed in the lab to find out the type and number of germs lurking there. They also asked participants a series of questions about their handwashing habits.

The largest proportion of contaminated phones was in Birmingham (41%) while Londoners were caught with the highest proportion of E. coli present on hands (28%). However, actual levels of bacteria increased the further north the scientists went, the dirtiest city being Glasgow, where average bacterial levels on phones and hands were found to be nine times higher than in Brighton, reinforcing a North/South divide. The scientists also found those who had bacteria on their hands were three times as likely to have bacteria on their phone.

Dr Ron Cutler, of Queen Mary, University of London, said: "Our analysis revealed some interesting results from around the UK. While some cities did much better than others, the fact that E. coli was present on phones and hands in every location shows this is a nationwide problem. People may claim they wash their hands regularly but the science shows otherwise."

Faecal bacteria can survive on hands and surfaces for hours at a time, especially in warmer temperatures away from sunlight; it is easily transferred by touch to door handles, food and even mobile phones. From there, the germs can be picked up by other people. Every year, 3.5m children under the age of five are killed by pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases – and the simple action of washing hands with soap is one of the most effective ways of preventing these illnesses. In developed countries, handwashing with soap helps to prevent the spread of viral infections, such as norovirus, rotavirus and influenza.

Global Handwashing Day - which is held on October 15 every year - aims to transform the action of washing hands with soap into an automatic behaviour, deeply set in our daily lives. Initiatives and events to promote the practice in homes, schools, workplaces and communities are held worldwide.

The UK Global Handwashing coalition involves GlaxoSmithKline, Initial Washroom Solutions, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Sanofi Pasteur MSD, School Councils UK, Queen Mary, University of London, The Ideas Foundation and Wellcome Trust.

For more information or to request interviews with Dr Curtis please contact the LSHTM press office on 0207-927-2802 or email paula.fentiman@lshtm.ac.uk , or globalhandwashingday@lshtm.ac.uk.

To arrange interviews with Dr Cutler please contact press@qmul.ac.uk and 0207-882-3004.

To arrange interviews with Peter Barrett please contact the Initial Washroom Solutions press office on 0207-632-2400 or email initial@publicasity.co.uk

Notes to Editors:

Global Handwashing Day is the centrepiece of a week of activities that aim to mobilise millions of people to wash their hands with soap. This simple activity could save more lives than any vaccine or medical intervention, preventing the spread of infection and keeping children in school. The UK campaign is coordinated by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine with support from GlaxoSmithKline, Initial Washroom Solutions, Sanofi Pasteur MSD, School Councils UK, Queen Mary, University of London, The Ideas Foundation and Wellcome Trust. http://www.globalhandwashingday.org.uk

UK maps and tables of data from the study are available on request.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is a renowned research-led postgraduate institution of public health and global health. Its mission is to improve health in the UK and worldwide through the pursuit of excellence in research, postgraduate teaching and advanced training in national and international public health and tropical medicine, and through informing policy and practice in these areas. Part of the University of London, the School is the largest institution of its kind in Europe with a remarkable depth and breadth of expertise encompassing many disciplines associated with public health.

Paula Fentiman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lshtm.ac.uk

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Nanoparticles as a Solution against Antibiotic Resistance?
15.12.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests
14.12.2017 | Aalto University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>