Highly elevated levels of allergens on smartphones: Research

A new study being presented at this year’s
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific
Meeting in Louisville, KY, showed elevated levels of cat and dog allergens, as
well as β-D glucans (BDG) and endotoxin on simulated phone models.

According to the 2018 U.S. Census, smart
phones are present in 85% of American households. They are reportedly viewed 14
million times a day, making them potential receptacles for environmental
hazards such as allergens.

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

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

The chemicals used in the mixture solutions
for cleaning (chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, tannic acid and benzyl
benzoate) can be purchased through laboratory or chemical suppliers but are not
commercially available in the same concentrations as used in the study. Isopropyl alcohol wipes were also tested for
their cleaning properties.

“Combination chlorhexidine/cetylpyridinium was
the most effective in reducing BDG and endotoxin and combination benzyl
benzoate/tannic acid most effectively reduced cat and dog allergens on
smartphones,” says Peter Thorne, PhD, professor in the University of Iowa
Department of Public Health and co-author of the study. “The study demonstrates
exposure to inhalant allergens and molecules that trigger innate immune
reactions from a source most people haven’t considered. If you have allergies
or asthma, you may want to think about cleaning your smartphone more often to
minimize exposure to these allergens and asthma triggers.”


Hana Ruran et al,Innovative Compounds to
Reduce β-D glucans, Endotoxin, and Allergens Newly Discovered on Smartphones
,Annals of Allergy Asthma & Immunology

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