Keyboards hiding hazardous germs

Which? magazine report shows dangerous levels of bacteria can lurk in dirty computer keyboards, threatening workers health

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By  Mark Sutton Published  May 6, 2008

Poor keyboard hygiene could be making office workers sick, according to a new report by Which? Computing magazine.

The study tested 30 keyboards in what was described as a typical London office, plus the toilet facilities in the same office building, and found that in some cases, the keyboards were up to five times dirtier than the toilet seats.

A microbiologist tested for a number of potentially harmful bacteria, including staphylococcus aureus, enterobacteriaceae, coliform and E Coli, and in one case found bacteria levels of over 150 times that found on the toilet seat, high enough to recommend that the keyboard was removed. Four keyboards were discovered to have levels of bacteria that could put the users at risk of cause food poisoning symptoms such as diarrhoea and other stomach upsets.

Which? Computing editor Sarah Kidner commented: "Most people don't give much thought to the grime that builds up on their PC but if you don't clean your computer you might as well eat your lunch off the toilet."

The main causes of bacteria in keyboards is people eating lunch at their desks, and general poor hygiene, such as failing to wash hands after using the toilet. Dust build-up can also attract moisture, which creates an ideal habitat for germs to grow.

The Which? report recommends regular cleaning of the keyboard, to remove any food particles, but in an additional online study of just under 4,000 people by the magazine, it was found that 11% of people never clean their computer keyboard, while a further 46% clean it less than once a month.

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