KSAT Defenders tests how dirty phones can get

Multiple types of bacteria found on 'clean' cell phones

Author: April Molina, Investigative Reporter, amolina@ksat.com
Published On: May 08 2013 05:37:58 PM CDT   Updated On: May 08 2013 09:50:44 PM CDT
SAN ANTONIO -

With all the calling, texting and emailing people do on their phone, the handling takes its toll by spreading unwelcome bacteria.

The Defenders wanted to know how much bacteria might plague the average phone, so they swiped a few and the results are in.

After swabbing volunteer Jeff Lustgraff's phone, the results were sent to a lab. Two different types of bacteria were present, for a total of 40 colony-forming units, or CFUs.

Only one other phone tested had just 40 CFUs, but the phone belonging to Maria, who boasted the best phone hygiene of all, came back with 130 CFUs with varying types of bacteria.

"You touch money, you touch handles, you touch everything wherever you go, you are touching things and you know you wash your hands, but you don't know about the other people," said Maria Leal Viejo.

The woman who told us she cleans her phone every other day had a phone with even more bacteria, at 410 CFUs, but the dirtiest phone belongs to a man who says he thinks about everything he touches.

"As a matter of fact I always have hand sanitizer with me -- in the vehicle, at the house, everywhere," said Guillermo Barerra.

Despite the sanitizer, Barerra's phone produced 930 CFUs, by far the highest number.

The possible culprit? The 2-year-old daughter he was holding who loves to play with his phone.

"She's touching all surfaces. I mean, anything that she can get her hands on, she'll touch it," Barerra said.

All the phones produced similar types of bacteria, primarily the kind found on skin or in soil -- not the anti-biotic resistant types doctors worry about.

"Over all, most phones have some bacteria on them and the studies range from about five to about 25 percent have bacteria that can actually cause disease in people," said UT Medicine Epidemiologist Dr. Jason Bowling.

Bowling adds it would be prudent to clean your phone, pointing out it may also be possible to spread flu through hard surface contact.

For a list of recent stories April Molina has done, click here.