They may count your steps, but these scientists are counting your bacteria.
Almost all Apple Watches and Fitbits are riddled with harmful bacteria, a recent study warned published in the scientific journal Advances in Infectious Diseases.
Researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) tested bracelets made of plastic, rubber, fabric, leather and metal (gold and silver) looking for a link between the bracelet’s material and bacterial growth.
They found that 95% of bracelets were contaminated with dangerous bacteria.
Specifically, 85% were infected with Staphylococcus spp. infected, the Staphylococcus spp. caused, while 60% were infected with E. coli bacteria and 30% with potentially lethal Pseudomonas spp. were infected.
These bacteria can lead to a variety of clinical diseases, including pneumonia and blood infections.
Millions of smartwatch users wear their gadgets every day – whether it’s to monitor their sleep, log their workouts, improve their overall health, or simply remind them to get up.
Ironically, they actually carry around large amounts of harmful germs if not properly sanitized.
And apparently few clean them.
Anna Coffey, 34, is one of those people. The avid runner and Chelsea resident has worn her Fitbit almost 24/7 for the past two and a half years and works out about five days a week.
“I never take it off unless I’m charging it, so about once a week,” she told the Post.
She never washed it either.
“It looks very clean, so I didn’t really think about it or think it was necessary,” she confessed.
Some smartwatch wearers might be a little cleaner – but not by much.
Nadine de Vries, 31, has worn her Apple Watch almost every day since she bought it in 2019. She walks around Chelsea and does weight training about three to five times a week and only takes it off to sleep.
“I rarely clean it. Maybe twice a year I wash the straps in soapy water and wipe the inside where the straps snap, but very rarely,” she admitted to The Post.
Participants who wore their watches during exercise had the highest levels of bacteria — particularly staph — underscoring the importance of cleaning the product after each strenuous activity.
While activity levels correlated with bacterial growth, the nature of the strap material was the biggest indicator of bacteria.
Rubber and plastic bracelets were found to have higher bacterial counts, while metal bracelets — especially gold and silver bracelets — had little to no bacteria.
“On average,” the authors wrote, “the trend in bacterial load was fabric ≥ plastic ≥ rubber ≥ leather > metal.”
The researchers explained that plastic and rubber wristbands provide an ideal environment for germs to accumulate, as the porous and static surfaces tend to attract bacteria and allow them to grow.
There was no discernible difference when the watches were worn by different genders.
“The amount and taxonomy of bacteria we found on the wristbands demonstrates the need for regular disinfection of these surfaces,” said senior author Nwadiuto Esiobu, Ph.D. said FAU News Desk. “Even in relatively small amounts, these pathogens are of public health concern.”
He cautioned that active health workers who go to the gym should be extremely careful when disinfecting their watches to avoid potentially infecting vulnerable patients.
Researchers also tested the effectiveness of cleaning products by comparing Lysol spray disinfectant, 70% ethanol — commonly used in hospitals and for alcohol swabs — and apple cider vinegar.
The results of 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, taking a full two minutes to reduce bacterial counts .