Cellphones, Germs, and You

When you combine a cell phone’s proximity to your ears, nose, and mouth with its bacteria-loving warmth, the result can be harmful to your health.

A lab tested eight randomly selected phones from a Chicago office. The phones showed no signs of E. coli or Staphylococci bacteria, but all showed abnormally high numbers of coliforms, a bacteria indicating fecal contamination.

One 2011 study sampled the cell phones of 100 college students and discovered them to be “veritable reservoirs of pathogens” that can make you sick. The study authors, from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, noted the high concentration and diversity of bacteria on the phones. A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology the same year warned that some 20 to 30 percent of viruses can be readily transferred from a fingertip to a glass surface, like that on a touch screen.