Mobile phones could become the next key consumer market for built-in antibacterial protection following research showing some are covered with 18 times more bacteria than the flush handle in a men’s toilet.
The findings from Which? Magazine follows previous reports that have also highlighted high levels of bacteria on mobiles. It found that, from a swab analysis of 30 handsets, seven had levels of bacteria exceeding recommended maximums.
Dr Nick Moon Ph.D, technical director at antibacterial protection specialist, Microban Europe, based in Cannock, Staffordshire, said that the findings indicated that millions of mobiles in the UK were breeding grounds for unacceptably high levels of bacteria.
He said: “These results are worrying, if unsurprising. Few people make an effort to clean their mobile regularly and may be using it in all kinds of environments where bacteria is rife, such as in or around public toilets. Which? follows other reports that indicate high numbers of bacteria on mobile phones. There is even research that indicates levels of bacteria linked to hospital infections are very high on handsets.”
Moon added that growing public awareness of bacteria issues tended to precede adoption of antibacterial protection built into consumer products and that this was likely to happen in the mobile phone sector.
Antibacterial protection such as that used by Microban is based on a wide range of technologies to suit each specific application but would predominantly make use of Microban third generation silver built into the handset’s thermoplastic components which would work the life of the product. On untreated products, bacteria can potentially double in number in 20 minutes but built-in Microban technology disrupts their functioning, usually causing them to die within 24 hours.
Moon continued: “In the US, where awareness of this kind of issue is arguably higher than in Europe, Microban protection is already built into different ranges of phone covers, cases and skins and these have proven very popular with consumers.
“We would expect handset and touchscreen manufacturers in the UK and other European markets to start looking at the possibilities of these applications here, as well as considering building antibacterial treatment into the component casings of the phones themselves.”
Microban partners with a large variety of consumer product manufacturers across Europe, the US and the rest of the world, covering product applications as diverse as television remote controls, pet products, kitchen utensils, home textiles, performance wear and spa pools.
A dedicated certification programme ensures that quality testing is regularly carried out on all products carrying Microban branding and that antibacterial claims are technically supported. This allows manufacturers utilising Microban to use robust claims about their efficacy, for example, preventing 99.9% of bacteria.
Moon said: “Mobile phones are an obvious application for the use of Microban technology. While our treatments should never replace normal hygiene precautions such as routine cleaning, they can play an important part in inhibiting the growth and spread of potentially harmful bacteria by preventing cross-contamination.”