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Is your toilet cleaner than your keyboard?

A United Kingdom consumer watchdog group recently conducted a survey at their own offices that revealed some computer keyboards had dangerously high levels of bacteria normally associated with a toilet.

A United Kingdom consumer watchdog group recently conducted a survey at their own offices that revealed some computer keyboards had dangerously high levels of bacteria normally associated with a toilet.

It was brave of the consumer group to reveal this information, but they did so because they think their offices are probably typical of many workplaces where people use computers every day, without thinking too much about how and when to clean them or the risks they take by touching surfaces such as computer mice, screens and keyboards shared with lots of other people.

This is what they did?

They invited microbiologist James Francis (from Carlisle based Kingmoor Technical Services) to swab 30 keyboards and a toilet door handle and a toilet seat at its London office. Most of the keyboards and the toilet door handles passed the hygiene test, but Francis found four of the keyboards were so infested with germs they posed a health hazard that could give someone a bad stomach upset; two of them had "warning" levels of staphylococcus aureus, and one had 150 times the safe limit of bacteria, and was five times dirtier than the toilet seat. Francis suggested this keyboard be removed from the office, as a precaution.

Francis, who has been working as a microbiologist for more than 20 years, said he hasn't seen a reading like that in a very long time. It was off the scale.

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Dr. Mark Enright, a microbiologist with Imperial College London agreed.

"You shouldn't have gut bacteria on a keyboard," he said.

The main cause of a germ-ridden keyboard is eating lunch at your desk, said the report, because bits of food that get into the keys are ideal breeding ground for millions of bacteria.

The second cause is using the keyboard without washing your hands after going to the toilet or rest room, and a third cause is dust, because this traps moisture and makes the food-ridden keyboard even more appealing to bacteria.

The consumer group polled 4,000 of their online members in January and February and asked them how often they cleaned their computer. Eleven percent said they never cleaned their keyboard and 20 percent said they never cleaned their mouse. 13 percent said they never cleaned their laptop, while 25 percent said they cleaned it every month.

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