May 22

Dirty programming may be hazardous to your health. No, I’m not talking about building an X-rated ASP.NET website. Rather, there is evidence that a computer keyboard can be more filthy than a toilet seat.

Quarantined Keyboards

Scientists in London swabbed 33 keyboards in their own offices for food poisoning bugs including e.coli, coliforms, and staphylococcus. Then they tested toilet seats and bathroom door handles. The results were shocking:

  • Two keyboards had “warning levels” of staphylococcus aureus.
  • Two other keyboards had “worryingly elevated” levels of coliforms and enterobacteria, “putting users at high risk of becoming ill from contact.”
  • One keyboard was so dirty that it was removed, quarantined and cleaned. It had 150 times the acceptable limit for bacteria and was five times as filthy as the average toilet seat.

The experts said the findings were typical of most offices. They warned that users risk “qwerty tummy,” named after the first six letters on a keyboard.

In a Word: Gross!

“The main cause of a bug-infested keyboard is eating lunch at desks, as the food deposits encourage the growth of millions of bacteria,” said the lead scientist. “Poor personal hygiene, such as dodging hand washing after going to the lavatory, may also be to blame. 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 a lavatory seat.”

A DailyMail survey found that one in ten people never clean their keyboard, and one in five never clean their computer mouse. About half clean their keyboard less than once a month. Also, the modern practice of “hotdesking,” in which employees sit at different desks every day, means that workers don’t know who has been using their keyboard before them.

This is nothing new of course. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a norovirus outbreak at a Washington, D.C., elementary school in February 2007 that sickened more than 100 students may have spread through contaminated computer equipment.

Wash Up!

“Handwashing is the single best, cheapest, most effective way to limit your exposure you have throughout your life with potentially dangerous bacteria,” says Dr. Aaron Glatt, spokesperson for the Infectious Disease Society of America. “It’s amazing how this basic, basic advice is ignored by huge numbers of people every day.”

It’s also important to clean your keyboard and mouse on a regular basis. Unplug your computer, then wipe the keyboard, mouse and other surfaces with a damp, soft, lint-free cloth. Compressed air is useful to remove food particles that have fallen between the keys. VideoJug recommends using home vinegar as a cleaner because it is inexpensive, you likely have it already in your kitchen, and it is anti-static, so it will help prevent dirt from sticking to your computer surfaces. A more radical, last-ditch solution is to disinfect your keyboard in a dishwasher.

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Article published on May 22, 2008

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2 Responses to “Dirty Programming: How Your Computer Keyboard May Make You Sick”

  1. surf Says:

    Nice Post. Posted this link in .Its a social bookmarking site.

  2. Ajlouny Says:

    Wow, this is something I have never thought about. I eat and breath using my keyboard and other people come up and touch it all the time…I have a sudden urgency to get hand sanitizer.

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