Photo ID’s on bootstring-style lanyards; a typical work attire accessory in today’s society. But could this seemingly harmless piece of plastic attached to a narrow piece of cloth be a breeding ground for dangerous levels of bacteria? According to the Medical Journal of Australia (MJW); yes, and not just for those in healthcare positions!
The objective of one study reported in MJW, 2008 was to accurately measure the bacterial levels found on plastic ID tags and fabric lanyards after being worn for an extended length of time by 59 health care workers (HCW). Bacterial counts were performed in which four samples were removed from each accessory and analyzed.
Each accessory was found to have high colonizations of microorganisms known to cause MRSA (a severe bacterial infection which is highly resistant to most antibiotics), MSSA bacteria ( known to cause meningitis, urinary tract infections),and endocarditis (an inflammation of the lining of the interior of the heart.) Fabric lanyards carried a median bacterial load 10 times greater, per unit of surface area, than ID badges!
Id Badges& Lanyards of Non-Healthcare Workers
Similar studies were made of non-healthcare workers. Results paralleled in high bacterial counts to the HCW, yet with less bacteria causing the problems mentioned above and more infectious bacteria known to cause skin, lung and digestive infections. Results from all studies link the pendulum swinging/hitting of the ID tag as a factor in its contact with numerous contaminated surfaces during the course of a day as well as the random touching of the ID and lanyard with the person’s hands. Another key element for bacterial growth found on the lanyard was from perspiration of the neck area, coupled with the continual warmth from body heat for 8 or more hours a day. The lanyard became a sort of “bacterial incubator”.
One of the best ideas for anyone who wears an ID tag is to put the lanyard in to wash with your towels when you do laundry once a week (more often during warm/hot weather) and to replace it once every 1-2 months. As for the plastic cover, just get into the habit of wiping it with hand sanitizer anytime you use sanitizer on your hands! Common sense and breaking old habits will be the best defense from the spread of illness within your workplace. After all, just think what you’ve been carrying around your neck lately!