Smartphones, tablets and even desktop keyboards could be having an adverse effect on your health, but not in the way you might think.
In the past, concerns have been raised on how health can be effected by too much screen time (particularly in education), the ‘tablet hunch’ and desktop keyboards, with the latter two in particular often cited for causing posture problems and bringing about repetitive strain injury.
However, while those issues may not cause any serious health issues, the latest report from a consumer watchdog suggests that mobile devices are a real risk when it comes to cleanliness.
In a new report, UK product-testing charity Which details that smartphones, tablets and desktop keyboards often carry “hazardous” levels of germs, with these sometimes bringing about vomiting, diarrhoea and even more serious conditions like an e.coli infection.
Taking swabs from 30 smartphones, tablets and keyboard recently, Which discovered that many of these devices were carrying germs, with some significantly worse than others.
One of the tested iPads had 600 units of Staphylococcus aureus, which creates toxins that can lead to food poisoning, and if that reading wasn’t scary enough, researchers said that the finding was worse than what you would find on an average toilet seat (less than 20 units).
Smartphones and keyboards fared considerably better -- but by no means excellent -- with respective readings of 140 and 480.
Analysts conducting the study put the results down to people taking more lunches at their desk and to a combination of poor hand cleaning and more gadgets being taken into the bathroom.
"A count of 600 on a plastic device of any sort is incredibly high. It indicates that some people don't wash their hands a lot,” said James Francis, the microbiologist who carried out the research.
"In the food industry, if we found those levels of bacteria from a hand swab of a food handler, they'd have to be taken out of the workplace and retrained in basic hygiene."
The bad results didn’t stop there, though. Further tests for Enterobacteria – a disease-carrying bacterium in the same family as Salmonella -- found 15,000 units of the bacteria on one tablet, four smartphones and five keyboards. For some context, researchers said that the result was less than 10 on the tested toilet seat and flush handle.
While these results are alarming, Which did provide some guidance on how users can avoid these risks by keeping their device clean.
The watchdog said that users should regularly wipe their devices with anti-bacterial wipes, and added that smartphone and tablet users should also grab damp, soft, lint-free cloths to remove steaks from their device’s display.
Meanwhile, the researcher said that keyboard users should make a habit of tipping their keyboard upside down, in order to remove food crumbs and even dead skin flakes.