Saturday, 16 October 2010 13:12

Newsflash: Planet Earth and iPhones have germs!


OMG! Scientists make the earth shattering discovery that the screens of iPhones, iPads and other smart devices can carry germs, whether through display in stores or by the sharing of devices prompting calls for hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes, but while hygiene is always welcome, isn't the whole thing a bit of a beat up?

It's all over the Internet: iPhones and Apple Stores have germs. Well, so what. The whole of Planet Earth has germs, so does every door handle, lift button, public transport seat, handrail and surface in public areas.

Sure, Apple stores are popular places, and there are plenty of large touch screens that could easily accumulate germs on iPhones, iPads and trackpads.

Indeed, Jeremy Olshan's article from the New York Post entitled 'Smartphone touchscreens are cesspools of germs, study shows' quotes 'Timothy Julian, a Stanford University doctoral student' who co-authored a study on viruses and glass touchscreens published in the Journal of Microbial Biology, telling the Sacramento Bee that: 'If you put virus on a surface, like an iPhone, about 30 per cent of it will get on your fingertips', some of which could 'go from your fingers to your eyes, mouth or nose".

Then there's the story called 'Apple Stores teeming with germs' by Asher Moses in the Sydney Morning Herald, where "Professor Peter Collignon, the director of infectious diseases and microbiology at the Australian National University" is quoted saying "You wouldn't have hundreds of people using the same glass or cup, but theoretically if hundreds of people share the same keyboard or touch pad, then effectively that's what you're doing" and noting that the germs on our hands can be dangerous ones.

There seems to be an emphasis on the surfaces being glass, so perhaps warnings should go out not to touch the front of Apple stores made from glass, or the glass of any store front too.

But what about those long, big, beautiful tables that Apple has in its stores? These surfaces, presumably with white laminate of some kind, aren't mentioned. Wouldn't these highly touched surfaces contain plenty of germs, too?

And what about all those door handles, lift buttons, public transport seats, handrails and other surfaces in public areas? What about other phone stores? Telstra T-Life stores or Virgin Mobile's Pitt St store? Department stores with goods on display... the glass counter at your local deli... any and every public surface you can think of where hands touch every day. Where's a similar "level of concern" about these areas?

The bacteria squirm over on page two... please read on!


In Hong Kong you see signs that door handles are wiped down every four hours, and you see places that have a free hand sanitization pump so you can quickly cleanse yourself from any potential iGerms. This was due to concerns about swine flu, but there's only so much you can wipe down. Are we to also be worried when simply holding any large glass touchscreen phone in the air when outside lest germs land on the glass and we touch them with our fingers?

There's a call for these hand sanitizers to be introduced to Apple Stores and presumably in plenty of other stores too, but is it just an unreasonable fear of germs gone way too far?

After all, there is no outbreak of inPhluenza at Apple stores, or bouts of stomach upset, or food poisoning. While reports of food poisoning do pop up on a usually very infrequent basis in the media by dodgy restaurants, cruise ships or hotel chains, there simply is no bacterial tsunami taking over human beings in modern gadget-loving western societies today!

Instead of mass panics about germs, the simple rules of hygiene have never changed and need to be followed.

Germs have always been around, and the normal washing of hands and cleaning gadgets and your surrounds, as required, without overdosing on sprays and anti-bacterial wipes, is just common sense.

So, iPanic if you want, but with good hygiene and common sense, most germs are as Douglas Adams described Planet Earth: mostly harmless.



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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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