Cleanliness is next to godliness
Modern society is ever-conscious of bacteria and compulsively obsessed with cleanliness. We kick open the public washroom door, line the toilet seat with toilet paper, stomp the flush lever, wash our hands under motion detecting faucets, elbow the dryer button, and time it so that when the person in-front of us leaves we have enough time to dash out before the door closes; all so we don’t have to touch the germ-ridden surfaces that lay in wait.
And people have good reason for being so paranoid- just the flushing of a toilet produces bacteria-laden
aerosols which settle on bathroom surfaces (Gerba et al., 1975); and as a result, these bathroom surfaces including the toilet bowl, flush handle, and floor, will often be contaminated by E. coli and other coliforms (Scott and Bloomfield, 1985). Gross right?
So despite being so germ-conscious, why is it that we have no issue with using our iPhone – or other SmartPhone – while sitting on the can? Actually a friend of mine said that’s where his iPhone was THE MOST handy.
I couldn’t find any literature on bacteria’ growth on SmartPhones, but a 1990 study by Scott and Bloomfield found that faecal coliform and total coliform bacteria can survive for as long as 24 hours on laminate surfaces, and transfer of E. coli from laminate surfaces to the fingers was as high as 40% up to 2 hours after contamination, with some transfer occurring even after the 24 hours. Although laminate is made of melamine resin (a plastic), and the iPhone screen (as well as many other touch-screens) are made of glass that may have a lower bacterial adhesion, it’s still a surface where bacteria will end up and a surface that we put to our mouth and face.
So next time you’re pooping, think about keeping it in your pants (your SmartPhone that is), or at least wipe it down afterwards!
- Gerba, C.P., Wallis, C. and Melnick, J.L. (1975) Microbiological hazards of household toilets: droplet production and the fate of residual organisms. Applied Microbiology 30, 229–235.
- Scott, E. and Bloomfield, S.F. (1985) A bacteriological investigation of the effectiveness of cleaning and disinfection procedures for toilet hygiene. Journal of Applied Bacteriology 59, 291–297.
- Scott, E. and Bloomfield, S.F. (1990) The survival and transfer of microbial contamination via cloths, hands and utensils. Journal of Applied Bacteriology 68, 271–278.
- Finch, J.E., Prince, J., Hawksworth, M. (2008) A Bacteriological Survey of the Domestic Environment. Journal of Applied Microbiology 45(3), 357-364