Calling All Germs: Is That Cell Phone "Grime" Dangerous? - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/07/07-Tyler

Calling All Germs: Is That Cell Phone "Grime" Dangerous?

It's always with you, and always with most of us.

Just like putting on our clothes in the morning, we take our cell phones off charge and off we go.   And that's one of the few things you might never clean.  Where has it been? What could be living and thriving on your cell phone?

We wanted to find out.  

We began asking for volunteers at Buford Media in Tyler.   A few "volunteers" acted more like victims, as they were apprehensive of the result of our tests. 

"I wouldn't think there would be gross stuff on it. I don't drop it in the toilet. I don't put it anywhere it shouldn't be," said volunteer Jan Colongne. 

In February, KLTV 7 tested women's purses for dangerous bacteria.  In the right setting, the purses were quite capable of causing skin boils, local infections and rarely much more serious diseases. 

Our volunteers believed their phones would stand up better than the purses.

"I think the bottom of the purse would be worse than anything since it sits on the bottom of the floor. But the phone stays in my purse," Colongne said.

Using a kit provided by the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler, the cell phones were rubbed with a special cotton swab and placed in individual tubes for testing.

At Tyler Junior College, students Kayla Martinez and Brandon Grant said they were curious as to the results of our experiment, and were eager to help.

"I've had this phone for about five or six months and it's been everywhere," Grant said, admitting he had never cleaned his phone.

We then traveled to the place where workers never stay in one place for long because they're all over East Texas:  the KLTV 7 newsroom.

Christine Nelson was in the office.  She had tested the purses back in February.  She didn't know we were coming to see her cell phone.

"Oh don't do my phone!  I thought you were going to do random people!" she said.

Reporter Tracy Watler was looking a bit nervous, having also said she had never cleaned the phone.

"[It's been] on the floor of the stadium at the University of Texas," we asked.

"Yeah, where I was sitting," she said. 

We then visited the weather center.

"How long have you had the phone," we asked Chief Meteorologist Mark Scirto.

"A year," he said.

We asked, "How long has it been since you cleaned the phone?"

"A year," he said, laughing.

We ended up testing 12 different cell phones in three locations.  Could it be that we picked up dangerous bacteria?

UT Health Center lab supervisor Angie Lanphier has helped us out on these tests before.  She'll be on the lookout for the potentially deadly Staph aureus, plus E. coli and other bacteria, especially from the bathroom.

"You would not want to find that. You would not, that would be bad," she said.

We'll let it stew, then deliver the verdict.

Tune in to KLTV 7 News at 10pm Thursday night for the results of our lab tests.

Morgan Palmer, Reporting morganpalmer@kltv.com

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