12 INVESTIGATES: Contaminated calls - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

12 INVESTIGATES: Contaminated calls

These days practically everyone has a cell phone, and it goes everywhere you do.

But that also means it's picking up every germ you encounter, too.

"I carry my cell phone around," said dermatologist Dr. Laci Theunissen. "It's in my purse, my children are playing with it. I bring it to the bathroom sometimes, multi-tasking."

And that means some nasty little organisms may be hitchhiking from an unsanitary surface to your face.

"A lot of people don't think about it," Theunissen said.

To find out just what is lurking on that surface, cell phones were taken to a lab.

The phones were swabbed and the swabs were incubated for three days at 37 degrees Celsius - roughly body temperature - to see what would grow.

Streptococcus, as in strep throat, and staphylococcus, as in staph infection, along with a few other types of bacteria were found on all the phones we tested.

But there is good news.

Joel Bracey, a clinical laboratory sciences student, said, "This stuff is not harmful, so people don't need to be afraid of their cell phones just because I found staph on there."

Theunissen wasn't surprised by the findings, but she has added a few extra questions about cell phones when examining patients.

"One consideration when a patient comes for the treatment of acne, especially if it's along the jaw line," Theunissen said, "is to ask them, ‘What side do you talk on your cell phone? Do you talk on your cell phone often? Do you use a headset or do you use an ear piece?'"

The constant pressure and contact of the cell phone along with the bacteria found on the surface of phones can aggravate the skin and add to acne breakouts.

"If you think about all the cell phone goes through in a day and then you keep it on your face talking on it, you can see how bacteria can be transferred," Theunissen said.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now/WWBT NBC12 All rights reserved.

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