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What’s Really Lurking in Your Old Cell Phone?

An alarming new study suggests that as many as every one in six of all old cell phones are contaminated with traces of fecal matter.

New research from scientists in London in the United Kingdom says that 16 per cent of cell phones were found to be contaminated with E.coli, bacteria that originates in fecal matter and which can cause illness. And the primary reason why cell phones are contaminated with it? People are not washing their hands after going to the lavatory.

The researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, the University of London, say that means everything around these people – including their hands – are almost certainly contaminated with the bacteria as well. An alarming 92 percent of hands and 82 percent of all cell phones tested – with the research taking place across 12 cities in the United Kingdom – indicated bacterial contamination.

This is despite surveys where 95 percent of people claim to always wash their hands with soap following a lavatory visit. “People may claim they wash their hands regularly, but the science shows otherwise,” notes Dr. Ron Cutler from the Queen Mary, University of London, who served as co-author on the study.

While the news is alarming, it seems we needn’t all be rushing to wear HAZMAT suits just yet, however. “The bugs we found are more or less harmless,” admits Dr. Val Curtis from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, but if “someone was ill, then they would be likely to transmit the pathogens to others”.