It is not uncommon for smartphones to harbor a variety of microbes, including allergens. This can occur due to the frequent handling of the device and the fact that it is often carried in close proximity to the face and hands, which can transfer allergens from the environment onto the device. Additionally, smartphones can also pick up allergens from the surfaces they are placed on, such as tabletops or countertops.
To minimize the risk of exposure to allergens on smartphones, it is recommended to regularly clean and disinfect the device using appropriate cleaning products. It is also a good idea to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face, especially after handling your phone.
Smartphones are present in 85% of American households, according to the 2018 U.S. Census. According to reports, they are viewed millions of times per day, making them potential receptacles for environmental hazards such as allergens. On simulated phone models, a new study presented at this year’s American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting in Louisville, KY, found elevated levels of cat and dog allergens, as well as -D glucans (BDG) and endotoxin.
Smartphones showed elevated and variable levels of BDG and endotoxin, and cat and dog allergens were found on pet owners’ smartphones.Hana Ruran
“Smartphones showed elevated and variable levels of BDG and endotoxin, and cat and dog allergens were found on pet owners’ smartphones,” says Hana Ruran, the study’s lead author. “BDGs are found in fungal cell walls and have been found in many environments and surfaces causing chronic airway and irritant symptoms – making BDGs a consistent marker to study problematic mold. Endotoxin is a potent inflammatory agent and a marker of exposure to Gram-negative bacteria.”
The researchers created phone models that were similar in size and surface to real phones, and the front surface of the phone model was wiped as part of the test. Electrostatic wipes (ESW) were used to sample 15 volunteers’ simulated phone models, which were then tested for allergens, BDG, and endotoxin levels.
The chemicals used in the cleaning mixture solutions (chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, tannic acid, and benzyl benzoate) can be purchased from laboratory or chemical suppliers, but not in the concentrations used in the study. The cleaning properties of isopropyl alcohol wipes were also evaluated.
“Combination chlorhexidine/cetylpyridinium was the most effective in reducing BDG and endotoxin and combination benzyl benzoate/tannic acid most effectively reduced cat and dog allergens on smartphones,” says Peter Thorne, Ph.D., professor in the University of Iowa Department of Public Health and co-author of the study.
“The study demonstrates exposure to inhalant allergens and molecules that trigger innate immune reactions from a source most people haven’t considered. If you have allergies or asthma, you may want to think about cleaning your smartphone more often to minimize exposure to these allergens and asthma triggers.”