22 September 2023

Clean Your Wristbands

Welcome back. Do you wear a wristband? Do you clean it? I rarely wear a wristwatch since retiring, but in all the years I wore one, I never even thought about cleaning the band.

A  study conducted by researchers with Florida Atlantic University and a former reporter with West Palm Beach TV leaves no doubt that was a mistake.

Checking Wristbands for Bacteria
The investigators randomly collected wristband swab samples from 20 anonymous volunteers, who were actively engaged in their daily routines. 

Volunteer subjects, activity when sampled and wristband material worn (from Table 1,
Those routines included office work, driving, firefighters, exercising and veterinary work. Their wristbands were rubber, plastic, metal, cloth and leather.

Wristbands used in the study: rubber (top left), cloth (bottom left), metal (top right) and plastic (bottom right) (from Fig. 1, www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=125218).

The researchers cultured and tested the collected samples for bacteria of public health significance to determine any correlation between wristband material and bacteria prevalence.

Bacteria Counts
Nearly all wristbands (95%) were contaminated. Wristband bacteria included common skin residents of the genera Staphylococcus (85% of wristbands) and Pseudomonas (30%), as well as intestinal organisms of the genera Escherichia, specifically E. coli (60%). E. coli commonly begins infection through fecal-oral transmission.

Total counts of bacteria recovered from surface of volunteer subjects' wristbands, with subjects grouped according to wristband material (from Fig. 2, www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=125218).
Even at relatively low numbers these pathogens are of public health significance, posing a special threat to immunocompromised hosts.

Viable bacteria varied widely among volunteers and wristbands of the same materials. On average, the bacteria load from high to low was cloth
  plastic  rubber leather > metal. The lowest total bacterial count was from a metal (gold) wristband that had no bacterial colonies.

The most important predictors of wristband bacteria load were the texture of wristband material and the activity (hygiene) of the volunteer when sampled. Porous and static surfaces tended to attract and be colonized by bacteria.

A gym-goer had the highest staphylococcal counts, which emphasizes the necessity of sanitizing wristbands after engaging in rigorous activity at the gym or at home. There were no significant differences between males and females in the occurrence or distribution of the bacteria groups.

Antibacterial Effectiveness of Household Products
The researchers subsequently tested how well three household disinfectants reduced bacteria on the various wristbands: Lysol Disinfectant Spray, 70% Ethanol, and Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar.

Using standard microbiological techniques, they assayed viable bacteria load after 0, 30 and 120 seconds of exposure to the disinfectants. Each of the disinfectants reduced viable bacterial counts to zero within 30 seconds on all wristbands except plastic, which required 120 seconds to achieve the same kill rate.

Wrap Up
The study suggests that healthwise your best choice in a wristband would be metal. Nearly all tested wristbands were contaminated, but cloth, rubber, plastic and leather wristbands had higher bacterial counts, while metal bands, especially gold and silver, had little to none.

Most important, the study showed that you really should clean your wristbands. Thanks for stopping by.

Study of wristband bacteria in Advances in Infectious Diseases journal: www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=125218
Article on study on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/998641

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