Superbugs and viruses represent huge health threats, particularly in hospitals, long term care facilities, doctors’ offices and other medical and care environments. Keeping surfaces sanitized is crucial to help prevent the spread of harmful viruses and bacteria. Frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers are also extremely important. But all of those preventative measures can be undermined by a menace that is lurking in the hands of staff and many patients. What is that menace? It’s their smartphones.
Smartphones are notorious hosts for all sorts of harmful germs. According to scientists at the University of Arizona, cellphones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. If someone sanitizes their hands but then pulls out their contaminated smartphone, their hands and faces are again potentially contaminated with anything from MRSA to C. Difficile to E. Coli. Pass cards, keys, credit cards and other objects that we use every day can also present a serious infection transmission risk.
In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, the smartphones of 250 hospital staff were swabbed. The study found that 99.2% of hospital staff smartphones were contaminated with potential pathogens, including MRSA and VRE. This shocking finding underscores the importance of implementing measures to properly sanitize smartphones and other items that medical staff and patients are using frequently.
So what is the best way to address this? Are traditional cleaning products a good choice for your smartphone? As highlighted on an Apple support page, many iPhone models have a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic, oil repellent, coating. According to Apple, cleaning products and abrasive materials can diminish the coating and may scratch your iPhone. While Apple says that you can use Clorox disinfecting wipes on your phone, they also highlight that if liquid enters your phone, it can cause damage, and liquid damage is not covered by the Apple One-Year Limited Warranty. Clorox disinfecting wipes are wet, so that sounds like a big risk to me, especially if you need to clean your phone frequently, like you should in a medical environment. For at home use, if you are very careful, this might be an acceptable risk.
So what can be done in a busy medical or care environment, where a fast, simple and effective solution is needed? There is an interesting technology that appears to be the answer. UV-C light is proven to destroy viruses and bacteria. According to a relevant Wikipedia article, UV-C kills microorganisms by destroying nucleic acids and disrupting their DNA. There is actually a local Calgary company, CleanDevice, that offers a new UV-C sanitizer that can be used to quickly and effectively sanitize smartphones, keys, pass cards, and other items that you touch frequently throughout the day. There are now many UV-C sanitizer products on the market, but CleanDevice says that many of those products are actually gimmicks and not effective. A fascinating video documents a simple experiment where dosimeters were used to measure the amount of UV-C light delivered by several UV sanitizers. The testing revealed that CleanDevice’s sanitizer, called the CleanintUV (CleanDevice is the exclusive distributor of Cleanint products in Canada), delivers far more millijoules of germ-killing UV-C light than the other products tested, some of which appeared to provide very little benefit or require far longer to deliver an acceptable dose of UV-C light. One of the other benefits demonstrated in the video is the touchless operation of the CleanintUV. After you place an item in the CleanintUV, the door automatically closes and then automatically opens when the cleaning cycle is complete, allowing you to maintain your hand hygiene. With the other products, it is necessary to manually open and close the lid, potentially contaminating your hand in the process.
So keep surfaces clean, wash your hands often, and sanitize smartphones frequently in order to keep staff and patients safe.