People usually bring their phones to the toilet to stay entertained while they go about their business, but researchers say that this practice exposes people to germs like Clostridium difficile, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella.
C. difficile is a spore-forming, gram-positive anaerobic bacillus which produces two toxins – toxin A and toxin B. These toxins can cause gastrointestinal disease, usually with severe complications. E. coli is a bacterium that can survive in both human and animal intestines. Salmonella is the second most common intestinal infection in the U. S. More than one million Americans contract Salmonella yearly. A 2011 report revealed that there was an average of 20,000 Salmonella-related hospitalizations in the country, with at least 400 deaths occurring due to Salmonella poisoning.
Researchers explained that if you wipe yourself or touch the flush or the toiler door, you're most likely going to touch your phone before you wash your hands. Even if you place your phone on the side, such as on top of shelves, your device can still be exposed to dangerous bugs.
Dr. Ron Cutler, director of biomedical science degrees at the Queen Mary University of London, suggests that if you want to avoid the transfer of viruses and fecal contamination, just don't bring your phone with you to the toilet.
He added that levels of contamination can vary depending on the location of the toilet. For example, a small office is relatively safe, but you may be exposed to all kinds of viruses if you're on a heavily populated area like a cruise ship. (Related: Whoops, you dropped something: Man’s rectum falls out after sitting on the toilet too long, playing games on his mobile phone.)
Dr. Lisa Ackerly, a hygiene expert, said that you can do a risk assessment to protect yourself from these dangers. If you need a book or your phone when you're on the toilet, remember to "[read] the book or phone in your right hand, then transfer it to the left." Wipe yourself and flush using your dominant hand, then carry the book or device using your other hand. Don't touch anything else, then wash your hands thoroughly to avoid contamination.
Ackerley added that if you wipe yourself and then touch your phone using the same hand, you don't need to bother washing your hands because "all the bacteria you put on your phone will end up back on your hands."
The researchers also agreed that you shouldn't place your phone on the toilet roll holder or on a shelf. Place your device in your pocket or in your bag, if you hang your bag on a hook.
Researchers suggest that it's better to avoid using your phone altogether if you're going to the toilet because germs can stay on your phone for several days. Cutler noted that since phones can get a little warm, this gives bacteria a warm environment to multiply in.
The next time you're going to use the toilet, think twice about bringing your phone with you. Are you willing to risk your health just so you won't get bored for several minutes?