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Your cell phone is a biological part of you (11/11/11)

November 11, 2011

Your Hand, Your Cellphone 

You’re an ecosystem – a complicated one.  Your  cell phone is just one component of it – and an inescapable part of your biology.

Fortunately, it’s one you can control.

A recent UK survey from 12 separate districts found bacteria on 92% of cell phones – and only 82% of human hands.  Fecal bacteria were found on one sixth of cell phones and human hands.

The most feculent cell phones were found in London – 28%.

Which means lots of people don’t properly wash their hands.

Patients, Visitors, and  Their Bugs

In May a Turkish study looked at the cell phones from hospital patients and visitors.  Forty percent had potentially nasty bacteria, including stuff like MRSA and highly resistant E.Coli.  They were not found on the cell phones of health care workers, whose overall bacterial percentages were about half.

MRSA and clostridium difficile kill about 20,000 Americans a year.

The Human Ecosystem


1. There are at least 100 trillion organisms living inside you that are not human; some estimates are there’s 100 trillion bacteria just in your gut.

2. At least 8% of the human genome comes from viruses.

3. Estimates of the number of non-human individual genes in the gut alone – 3.3 million to 9 million.  That’s at least 150 times as many individual genes as your human genome.

4. Gut bacteria have been implicated in many human diseases – including depression.

Pains and Pleasures of an Ecosystem

This year’s Nobel prize went to astronomers who showed that 96% of the universe we live in is dark energy and dark matter – about which we know practically nothing.  Human biology is a similar sink of ignorance, where the implications of our ecosystem and our very rapid regeneration and internal turnover have been neglected for decades.

However, this means that we may be able to treat diseases and disorders more effectively. If lactobacilli like we find in yogurt can prevent stress and the mouse form of depression, just think we might do when we figure out our ecosystem better.

Treat Your Cell Phone as Part of Your Hand

People don’t use their cell phones – they like them a lot.  So it’s time to start treating your cell phone as an extension of you – not just your brain, but your hand.

Hand bacteria will get onto your cell phone easily.  Unlike wallets and keys, you hand cell phones to other people.  You bump them.  They go with you pretty much everywhere – including into bed – which includes your bed partner and perhaps children and pets.

So wash your cell phone as you wash your hands.

A Few Rules for Your Cellphone

1. Wash your hands properly – as suggested by the CDC. Wash before and after meals and going to the bathroom – at a minimum.  Lather the suds and rub your hands together for 20 seconds – you can hum Happy Birthday to estimate the time correctly.

Clean hands mean cleaner cell phones (vice versa is also true) and less infections.

2. Use alcohol – rubbing or wipes –  on your cell phone once a day.  You can do this when you wash your hands in the morning on waking.

3. Clean your kids’ cell phone once a day – and teach them how to do it.

4. Wash your cell phone holders, too.  Plastic and rubber ones are easier than leather holders.

5. Viruses also go on cell phones.  So wipe your dry eyes and your nose with tissues – not your fingers. Viruses go everywhere.

Bottom Line

Cell phones change economies, communication, education, human brains and inner human ecology.

Treat them with respect – as part of your hand. Clean them.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

4 Comments leave one →
  1. johan permalink
    November 11, 2011 10:58 PM

    References? Links to the study please?

  2. steve west permalink
    December 3, 2011 12:53 PM


    Could you explain what the mouse form of depression is? Thanks.

    • December 8, 2011 10:50 AM

      Mice don’t have our psychology – but their behaviors can appear like ours – and respond to the same treatments. Most mouse models of depression work on learned helplessness – forcing the animal into situations where it cannot truly escape, like trying to swim without a support. The animal does not actually drown, but thinks it will. Interestingly antidepressants will make animals keep swimming longer, as will novel interventions – like putting lactobacilli in their gut.

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