UK mobile phones are a-crawl with poo-bugs

If you thought your mobile carrier was a pile of shit, it's understandable -- after all, the phones themselves are festering hives of E coli:

Researchers said that 16% of the devices were contaminated with E coli, which can cause food poisoning, most probably because people fail to properly wash their hands after going to the toilet. The study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London, also found that Britons tend to lie about their personal hygiene.

While 95% of the 390 people surveyed said they washed their hands with soap where possible, 92% of mobile phones and 82% of hands were contaminated with bacteria.

(Image: SHIT (med og uten ®), a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from aslakr's photostream)


  1. Fail to properly wash their hands after going to the toilet? More like use facebook while they’re on the toilet.

  2. From the third paragraph:

    While 95% of the 390 people surveyed said they washed their hands with soap where possible, 92% of mobile phones and 82% of hands were contaminated with bacteria.

    But the 7th paragraph says:

    Birmingham has the highest proportion of bacteria-ridden phones (41%)

  3. Only get your food where the workers put on plastic mitts while handling it. And where they remove those mitts to do other things only to put on new ones when they handle food again.

  4. Ob HHGttG: “Ironically, after all the telephone sanitizers were sent away with the rest of the “useless” Golgafrinchans, the rest of the society died off from an infectious disease contracted from an unsanitized telephone.”

    1. Yeah, and they came here – so a large portion of our genetic makeup is telephone sanitizers.  How can we be betraying our ancestors so?

  5. So, a serious question —- since our Golgafrinchan roots are largely lost….

    What’s the best way to periodically sanitize your phone without damaging it?

      1. little disposable alcohol wipes

        Is that your new term for UK citizens? You could become Home Secretary.

    1. Funny you ask, last week I just did that very thing. 

      First you unscrew and remove the casing (if your phone has no screws then you should rethink your relationship with that manufacturer for they obviously dislike you)

      Second you need a can of compressed air to blow the shit out that dusty lint magnet.

      Thirdly wipe down the exterior shell with lysol wipes, let dry, and reassemble. 

      1. First you unscrew and remove the casing  … Second you need a can of compressed air to blow the shit out

        I think you’ve got more e-coli in your phone than the rest of us.  ;)

    1. You forgot to mention that we also have bad teeth.
      The only good thing about us Brits is that we don’t accuse you of racism whenever you make negative stereotypical generalisations about us. 

  6. While I’m British and readily admit to lying about hygiene, among many other things,  I really don’t think this study has anything to do with anything.  Washing all bacteria off your hands is hard, as anyone who has watched a surgeon scrub up can attest. Until everyone stands around with a nailbrush, hot water, carbolic soap and a three-minute timer, we’re going to be spreading e coli around.  And while I’m also from Queen Mary College, like the researchers, I don’t agree a few e coli here and there are going to cause anything at all. Also, as an American (dual citizen!) living in the US I’m more afraid of catching deadly things off melons, sprouts and lettuce than I am off my own telephone. And even more also, as an American woman, I’ve certainly heard too many American women yakking on the phone while doing their business to think that any amount of hand-washing afterwards would be of any use.

    1. I used to date a vetenarian.  She told me in the event of an medical emergency, the person who has just finished washing the dishes has the cleanest hands, since they have been soaking in soapy water for half an hour.

      Likewise, as a semi-serious joke, an emergency room doctor, interviewed about this,  said that in a pinch, plunge your hands in yogurt and wipe them with a clean towel.

      In any case, if you’re really concerned about getting infected by your cell phone (as opposed to, oh I don’t know, the air you breathe), make sure your next cell phone is completely waterproof so you can wash it.

  7. I set my iPhone to vibrate, then shove it up my bottom and call myself. I never stopped to think about E. coli, though.

  8. I’m with peromyscus on this one. I think this is normal. It’s not pleasant to think about, but in truth we coevolved in an integrated ecosystem of, well, filth.

    There are more bacterial cells in your body than human cells. There are species of oil-loving microbes that live behind your ears. Your body is coated in tiny animalcules, and your orifices are the vast river deltas where unwashed millions make pilgrimage. Hygeine practice is important, but the presence of these lifeforms does not generally cause disease. They are part of the balance, the movement of energy and matter that makes life function.

    Exposing your feet to soil improves mood, but we don’t know why. As children, having no animals as pets predisposes people to asthma and allergies, having left us with a naive immune system. Some people with severe allergies have, in desperation, infected themselves with a species of intestinal worm known to dramatically reduce these allergies. It works.

    The CDC counted 878 deaths in the US in 2010 from the most common types of food poisoning. Really? This is the new thing we’re supposed to panic about now? Last time it was keyboards being ‘dirtier than a toilet’:

    We’ve been exposed to hundreds of thousands of years of human nosepicking and crotch-scratching. It’s good for us.

    I just try not to think about it while shaking hands.

  9. Uggg… another story about e. coli being EVERYWHERE. I could test almost anything and find e. coli. What is wrong with this story: Most e. coli is harmless and is killed in the stomach; just because there is e. coli doesn’t mean there are hunk of shit on your phone; they assume that the e. coli is coming from the phone user not washing there hands as instead of picking it up from the gazillion surfaces they touched before they used the phone.

  10. It really doesn’t matter how many of your everyday items are covered in e. coli so long as you wash your hands before handling food and eating it.

    The funny thing about hygiene is that, while it’s good practice to keep your surroundings clean, the only place it really matters is what you do before eating and how clean your hands are before you get them near your mouth or rub your eyes with them.

    Doctors spend all day contaminating their hands (and most don’t wear gloves during the bulk of it) but most don’t take any more sick days than the rest of us because they just wash them regularly. The contamination of their surroundings doesn’t really affect their overall health.

  11. How exactly is using the phone while on the toilet likely to cause any transfer of bacteria to it? Unless you do something odd while your faeces are on their way out, they tend to be hidden away underneath your arse and then underwater fairly quickly. Any transfer to a phone that you are talking into or poking with fingers,  is probably going to go directly to your mouth anyway.

    So, can we stop all these “They’re probably using it on the toilet” comments please?

    I suppose “worst case” is that you play with your phone in between wiping and washing (or not washing) in which case you deserve all the bacteria you get.

  12. So if so many phones are infected with E-Coli, and everybody is using them on a daily basis, how come we aren’t seeing an explosive rise in food poising cases?

      1. I know what you mean Freddy, the whole food poising thing is balanced on a knife edge.

        Stray but a little and it will fail, to the explosive diarrhea of all.

  13. If you are using a touch device i assume that there are less places to hide the germs – a smooth device means a clean device? For example, my computer keyboard has visible detritus on, in, around it…

  14. Everything is covered in E. coli, they are a natural part of your gut content (yes, everyone’s intestines are full of E. coli) and help you to digest food.

    The reason why it makes the news is because a few types of E.coli interfear with your own E.coli, which is what makes you ill.

    The fact that you have E.coli on your hands obviously means that everything you touch will also be covered in E.coli, your mobile, your keyboard, your mouse, your keys, your wallet, your food, your clothes etc. This article is pretty bad science…

  15. Washing your hands won’t make a difference if you pick the germs right back up again as soon as you touch the bathroom light-switch or door knob… or umpteen other things on your journey to work.  No matter what you do or how clean you think you can make things, bacteria is always going to end up on just about everything.  They’re part of our ecosystem, no need to get all surprised about what they end up on.

  16. want to bet big pharma is working on an anti-bacterial spray in a can to tap into this particular sector of the germ-phobic market? 

    create the hysteria, solve the problem with a bogus product. E.coli is everywhere. we co-evolved with it. everyone settle down.

  17. You’ld think Blackberry users would be well aware of the risk of E Coli contamination when RIMming.

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