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How clean is your mobile phone?

india Updated: Jul 28, 2010 16:53 IST
TVC bacteria

You may like to throw your mobile phone after reading this, as a new study has found the average handset carries 18 time more potential harmful germs than a toilet's flush handle.

An analysis of handsets by British researchers found that almost a quarter of them were so dirty that they had up to 10 times an acceptable level of TVC bacteria.

TVC, or Total Viable Count, gives a quantitative idea about the presence of microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and mold in a sample.

Elevated levels of TVC indicate poor personal hygiene and act as a breeding ground for other bugs.

One of the phones in the test had such high levels of bacteria that it could have given its owner a serious stomach upset, said the researchers who carried out the study for the 'Which?' magazine.

The findings from a sample of 30 phones suggest that 14.7 million of the 63 million mobiles in use in the UK today could be potential health hazards, they said.

"The levels of potentially harmful bacteria on one mobile were off the scale. That phone needs sterilising," lead researcher Jim Francis was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

According to the findings, the most unhygienic phone had more than ten times the acceptable level of TVC, while the worst handset had 39 times the safe level of enterobacteria --a group of bacteria that live in the lower intestines of humans and animals and include bugs such as Salmonella.

It boasted 170 times the acceptable level of faecal coliforms, which are associated with human waste.

Other bacteria including food poisoning bugs e.coli and staphylococcus aureus were found on the phones but at safe levels.

Which? magazine's Ceri Stanaway said: "Most phones didn't have any immediately harmful bacteria that would make you sick straight away but they were grubbier than they could be.

"The bugs can end up on your hands which is a breeding ground and be passed back to your phone. They can be transferred back and forth and eventually you could catch something nasty.

"What this shows is how easy it is to come into contact with bacteria. People see toilet flushes as being something dirty to touch but they have less bacteria than phones.

"People need to be mindful of that by observing good hygiene themselves and among others who they pass the phone to when looking at photos, for example."

The magazine has previously found that some computer keyboards carry more harmful bacteria than a lavatory seat.