Bacteria bonanza: FAU study shows just how filthy wristbands are, offers cleaning tips

Bacteria bonanza: FAU study shows just how filthy wristbands are, offers cleaning tips

New research from Florida Atlantic University is showing people who use Apple Watches and other activity trackers on their wrists just how filthy their bands are.

A study released by FAU this past week showed nearly all wristbands, some 95% were contaminated with bacteria.

For the study, researchers tested plastic, rubber, cloth, leather and metal wristbands to see if there is a correlation between wristband material and the prevalence of bacteria.

Results of the study, published in the journal Advances in Infectious Diseases, showed rubber and plasic wristbands had higher bacterial counts, while metal ones like gold and silver had little to no bacteria.

“Plastic and rubber wristbands may provide a more appropriate environment for bacterial growth as porous and static surfaces tend to attract and be colonized by bacteria,” said Nwadiuto Esiobu, the senior author of the study.

There were no significant differences between males and females, but a major factor was the hygiene of the user, with gym-goers showing some of the highest bacterial counts, the study found.

What bacteria is on the bands?

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Staphylococcus, which was prevalent on 85% of the wristbands, is a type of bacteria found on human skin, in the nose, armpit, groin or other areas that cause a wide variety of clinical diseases.

Pseudomonas, which was found on 30% of the wristbands, can cause infections in the blood, lungs (pneumonia) or other parts of the body after surgery.

“The quantity and taxonomy of bacteria we found on the wristbands show that there is a need for regular sanitation of these surfaces,” said Esiobu. “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 hosts indicates a special need for health care workers and others in hospital environments to regularly sanitize these surfaces.”

In addition to skin bacteria, researchers found found E. coli bacteria on 60% of the wristbands, which most commonly begins infection through fecal-oral transmission.

What works best to clean the bands?

Findings from the study showed that Lysol Disinfectant Spray and 70% ethanol were highly effective regardless of the wristband material with a 99.99% kill rate within 30 seconds.

Apple cider vinegar was not as potent and required a full two-minute exposure to reduce bacterial counts.

While these common household disinfectants all proved at least somewhat effective on all materials, antibacterial efficacy was significantly increased at two minutes compared to thirty seconds.

“Other potential forms of bacterial transmission and facilitation of infection, such as earbuds or cell phones, should be similarly studied,” said Esiobu.

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