During normal speaking,
people expectorate and this bacteria-laden fluid can penetrate the holes in the telephone
mouthpiece. If a seriously ill person coughs or sneezes while on the telephone, pathogenic
bacteria can be deposited on and in the telephone. Cleaning with alcohol helps, but does
not eliminate the bacteria that could exist inside the mouthpiece. Just as you would not
use a glass or utensil of a stranger or ill person, would you put your mouth against a
telephone, especially not knowing who used it last?
Every time someone picks up
the phone, their mouth acts as a vacuum, inhaling germs, bacteria and airborne
transmittable diseases. these germs can live for days, breeding in this moist, dark place.
Whether at home, work or on the road, you are exposed to these germs every time you pick
up the telephone.
Using a receiver recently touched by someone with a cold or flu may give you their
illness, says Terry M. Phillips, Ph.D., of George Washington University Medical Center -
Woman's Day 11/1/94
Telephones can be doubly treacherous: Not only does bacteria lie on the surface, where
you can get them on your fingers, but they can lurk in the mouthpiece. "If you use a
phone shortly after someone with a cold has breathed into it, you run a risk of inhaling
the bacteria," says Terry M. Phillips, Ph.D., director of George Washington
University's Immunogenetics and Immunochemistry Laboratories in Washington, D.C.
An Independent Study done at George Washington University Laboratory Dept. of
Immunogenetics and Immuno Chemistry revealed for the following: "We have found there
is evidence of bacteria on public telephones which are harmful to human health and that a Safe-Tel membrane barrier will protect
telephone users against contact with these bacteria." Dr. Terry M Phillips Ph.D.
Ken Kruta, a virologist in Jersey City, tested public phones in the Essex County area
Using sterilized wooden toothpicks, Kruta scraped the holes
inside the mouthpieces of phones in both the suburbs and the inner cities. "I wasn't
even interested in the surface of the mouthpiece...because if (bacteria) are going to live
for more than a day or two, they would go to a harbor, a sanctuary," Kruta said.
Later, under controlled laboratory conditions, he was able
to grow bacteria from the samples and conduct diagnostic tests. His testing turned up
staph, strep and a number of other pathogenic organisms.
The results indicated that whenever one uses a public phone,
whether it be indoor or outdoor, urban or suburban, idle or immediately following its use,
chances are that there will be some exposure to one or more infectious agents.
Conclusions: During normal use, both public and private telephones become
contaminated with a variety of different pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These
organisms have mechanisms whereby they can survive both on the inert surface of the
plastic telephone mouthpiece and within the mouthpiece, itself. Viability studies indicate
that all of these organisms are capable of surviving desiccation on the inert surface and
maintaining their disease inducing potential. The Safe-Tel membrane was shown to be an effective barrier
against all of the bacteria and fungi tested. Although it was impossible to actually test
the potential of the disease promoting activity of the virus units which were able to
cross the membrane at 2 hours or longer exposure, the levels of outer membrane
contamination indicated that potential infection levels were present. Overall, the Safe-Tel membrane appears to be an
effective short-term barrier against possible aerosal-mediated infections arising from
microbial contamination of telephones.