Counting steps with countless bacteria!
Ever wondered fitbit and apple watches have surprising bacterial world.
The Apple Watch and Fitbit have become increasingly popular in recent years, revolutionizing the way we track our health and lifestyle. These wearable devices offer countless benefits, from tracking our activity levels to monitoring our heart rates and sleep patterns. However, have you ever stopped to consider what might be lurking on these devices? Well, it turns out, our beloved Apple Watches and Fitbits may not be as pristine as we think.
About 229 million people wear Apple Watches, according to Business of Apps, while Fitbit boasted 120 million registered users as of 2022, Business of Apps also reported.
Bacteria, microscopic organisms that can be found everywhere, including on our skin, hands, and personal belongings, can find their way onto our wearable devices. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Oregon discovered an array of bacteria residing on everyday items, including smartphones and wristbands similar to Apple Watches and Fitbits. Surprisingly, the researchers found that, on average, these wristbands contained more bacteria than many other objects we interact with regularly. As published in a recent study by science journal advances in Infectious Diseases.
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) tested plastic, rubber, cloth, leather and metal (gold and silver) wristbands in search of a correlation between the material of the wristband and bacteria build-up.
They found that 95% of wristbands were contaminated with some kind of dangerous bacteria.
Specifically, 85% were found with Staphylococcus spp — which causes staph infections — while 60% had E. coli bacteria and 30% carried potentially deadly Pseudomonas spp.
These bacteria can lead to a wide variety of diseases including pneumonia and blood infections.
The study found that the types of bacteria present on wearable devices vary greatly, with some being relatively harmless, while others may pose health risks. One common type of bacteria found was Staphylococcus epidermidis, which is known to live on human skin and is usually harmless. However, if it enters the body through a cut or a wound, Staphylococcus epidermidis can cause infections.
Another bacterium often found on these devices is Micrococcus, which also typically resides on human skin. While generally harmless, this bacterium has been linked to certain skin infections in rare cases. Additionally, the researchers discovered gram-negative bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause skin infections, respiratory problems, and even life-threatening infections if not treated properly.
So, how does bacteria end up on our Apple Watches and Fitbits? Well, studies have shown that bacteria can easily transfer onto our skin and personal belongings when we touch different surfaces throughout the day. We unknowingly pick up bacteria from objects such as doorknobs, keyboards, and smartphones, and transfer them to our skin when we touch these items. From there, bacteria can easily find their way onto our wearable devices.
Furthermore, our fingers produce oils and sweat, which create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Additionally, people who wear their devices while exercising, sweating, or forgetting to clean them regularly may have a higher concentration of bacteria on their devices.
While activity levels correlated with bacterial growth, the biggest predictor of bacteria was the texture of the wristband material.
Rubber and plastic wristbands were found to have higher bacterial counts, while metal ones — particularly gold and silver — had little to no bacteria.
To mitigate this issue and keep our devices clean, there are several precautionary steps to take. Firstly, it is recommended to regularly clean your Apple Watch or Fitbit by gently wiping it down with a cloth moistened with a small amount of rubbing alcohol, as this can help kill bacteria. However, it's important to ensure the cloth is damp and not dripping with the cleaning solution, as excess moisture can damage the electronic components.
The quantity and taxonomy of bacteria we found on the wristbands show that there is a need for regular sanitation of these surfaces,” senior author Nwadiuto Esiobu, Ph.D. told FAU News Desk. “Even at relatively low numbers, these pathogens are of public health significance.”
He noted that active, gym-going healthcare workers should be most cautious about sanitizing their watches to avoid possibly infecting at-risk patients. The researchers also tested the effectiveness of cleaning products by comparing Lysol Disinfectant Spray, 70% ethanol — which is commonly used in hospitals and for alcohol wipes — and apple cider vinegar.
Findings from the study showed that Lysol Disinfectant Spray and 70% ethanol were highly effective on all materials, killing 99.99% of bacteria within 30 seconds, while apple cider vinegar was not as successful and required a full two minutes to reduce the bacterial count.
Another preventive measure is to remove your device and properly clean your wrist, especially after exercising or engaging in activities that make you sweat excessively. Regularly washing your hands with soap and water also helps minimize the transfer of bacteria to your wearable devices.
Our beloved Apple Watches and Fitbits are not immune to bacteria. While most of the bacteria found on these devices are harmless, certain types could potentially cause infections or health issues. Practicing good personal hygiene, cleaning your device regularly, and keeping your hands clean can significantly reduce the risk of bacterial infections. By adopting these simple habits, we can continue enjoying the benefits of our wearable devices while minimizing potential health risks.