Before the advent of smartphones and tablets, using the bathroom meant getting cozy with a paper magazine, newspaper, or heck even a shampoo bottle to pass the time. Now it's Angry Birds and scrolling through Facebook. It should come as no surprise, then, that your smartphone may be contaminated with fecal matter.
As gross as that sounds, a new study for Global Handwashing Day (which is apparently thing) found that one in six smartphones are contaminated in such a manner.
"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," says hygiene expert Dr. Val Curtis, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
The study also suggests that people are liars, which is what I've extrapolated from the data. How so? Researchers traveled to a dozen cities and took 390 samples from mobile phones and hands, which were then analyzed in a lab to find out the type and number of germs present. Some 95 percent of those that were part of the study said they washed their hands with soap where possible. However, 92 percent of phones and 82 percent of hands had bacteria on them.
Even more worrisome is that 16 percent of hands and 16 percent phones were found harboring E. coli, which is bacteria of a fecal origin.
"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," said Dr. Ron Cutler of Queen Mary, University of London.
Fecal bacteria is somewhat resilient—it can survive on hands and objects for several hours, and is easily transferred from touch to door handles, food, and yes, mobile phones. This can also be deadly. According to the study, 3.5 million children under the age of five are killed by pneumonia and diarrhea diseases every year.
Bottom line? Wash your hands, folks.