Smartphones are Allergen Reservoirs According to New Studies

Certain cleaning agents are most effective at removing allergens from smartphones.

Smart phones are present in 85% of American households, according to the 2018 U.S. Census. They are said to be viewed 14 million times per day, making them potential reservoirs for environmental hazards like allergens. On simulated phone models, a new study presented at this year’s American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting in Louisville, KY, found elevated levels of cat and dog allergens, as well as -D glucans (BDG) and endotoxin.

“Smartphones showed elevated and variable levels of BDG and endotoxin, and cat and dog allergens were found on pet owners’ smartphones,” says Hana Ruran, the study’s lead author. “BDGs are found in fungal cell walls and have been found in a variety of environments and surfaces, causing chronic airway and irritant symptoms, making BDGs a reliable marker for studying problematic mould.” Endotoxin is a potent inflammatory agent and a marker of Gram negative bacteria exposure.”

The researchers built phone models that were the same size and shape as real phones, and the front surface of the phone model was wiped as part of the test. Electrostatic wipes (ESW) were used to sample 15 volunteers’ simulated phone models, and the “phones” were then tested for allergens, BDG, and endotoxin levels.

The chemicals used in the cleaning mixture solutions (chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, tannic acid, and benzyl benzoate) can be obtained from laboratory or chemical suppliers, but not in the concentrations used in the study. Cleaning properties of isopropyl alcohol wipes were also tested.

“The combination chlorhexidine/cetylpyridinium was most effective in reducing BDG and endotoxin, and the combination benzyl benzoate/tannic acid was most effective in reducing cat and dog allergens on smartphones,” says Peter Thorne, PhD, professor and co-author of the study. “The study demonstrates exposure to inhalant allergens and molecules that trigger innate immune reactions from an unexpected source.” If you have allergies or asthma, you should consider cleaning your smartphone more frequently to reduce your exposure to allergens and asthma triggers.”

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