A recent study has raised concerns for owners of smart watches and fitness trackers, as it revealed that 95 percent of 20 different smart watch wristbands tested were contaminated with bacteria that could potentially cause diseases.
Conducted by researchers from Florida Atlantic University, the study examined the presence of potentially pathogenic species, including Staphylococcus, Enterobacteria (such as Escherichia coli), and Pseudomonas, all of which can lead to infections under certain conditions.
TYPE OF BAND
Interestingly, the type of wristband material played a significant role in bacterial contamination. Rubber and plastic bands were found to have the highest bacterial counts, while metal bands, especially those made of gold and silver, were nearly free from bacteria.
Biological scientist Nwadiuto Esiobu from Florida Atlantic University explained, “Plastic and rubber wristbands may provide a more suitable environment for bacterial growth, as porous and static surfaces tend to attract and harbour bacteria.”
Although previous research has highlighted the potential infection risks associated with wristwatches and wearable in healthcare settings, this study delves deeper into how different materials may host opportunistic microbes in everyday life.
The bacteria identified in this study are among the common ones present on the human body and in the environment. Under certain conditions, they can lead to various diseases, such as abscesses, pneumonia, and salmonella.
The study did not observe notable differences between male and female participants. However, the activities individuals engaged in did have an impact, with wristbands from gym-goers displaying the highest levels of staphylococcal bacteria.
This research highlights an overlooked aspect of personal hygiene practices. While people wear watches and wearable throughout the day, cleaning them is often neglected.
Esiobu emphasized, “The quantity and taxonomy of bacteria we found on the wristbands show that there is a need for regular sanitation of these surfaces. Even at relatively low numbers, these pathogens are of public health significance.”
“Importantly, the ability of many of these bacteria to significantly affect the health of immunocompromised individuals underscores the importance of health care workers and others in hospital environments regularly sanitizing these surfaces.”
LYSOL-BRANDED DISINFECTANT SPRAY
The researchers also conducted tests using various cleaning substances to determine their effectiveness, including a Lysol-branded disinfectant spray, a 70 percent ethanol solution (commonly used in hospitals), and apple cider vinegar, a more natural option.
In terms of bacterial eradication, both the Lysol spray and ethanol solution proved highly effective, eliminating 99.9 percent of bacteria within 30 seconds across all materials. However, apple cider vinegar, while still effective, required more time to achieve similar results.
The researchers hope that their findings raise awareness about the importance of regularly cleaning wearable and other gadgets that come into contact with the skin daily. Additionally, they suggest that similar studies should be conducted for other devices, such as ear buds and cell phones, which also frequently interact with our skin.
This research has been published in Advances in Infectious Diseases.