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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Computer filth exposed
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

The shocking secrets of the life of grime beneath your fingers have been revealed.

Computer keyboards are accumulating up to two grams of dirt every month, research conducted on behalf of AOL UK shows.

The crumbs and dirt collect beneath the keys because users eat breakfast, snacks, and lunch over their computer terminals.

The personal grooming that people undertake while at their desk also contributes to the build-up of grunge.

Fingernail pairings

AOL collected the dust, dirt and organic debris accumulating beneath the keys of a keyboard in a typical London office for a month.

Keyboard crumb breakdown
Corn Flakes (15%)
Boiled sweet (15%)
Noodles (7%)
Vegetable piece (4%)
Leaf (1%)
Pencil shavings (1%)
Staple (1%)
Finger nail (<1%)
Tape/plastic (<1%)
Insect (<1%)
Foil (<1%)
Hair (<1%)
Various particles resembling cereal grains, biscuit crumbs, bread crumbs, pastry flakes and chocolate crumbs (56%)

The accumulated rubbish, which weighed in at a hefty 1.89 grams, was then sent for study at Reading Scientific Services, an independent food and drink analysis centre.

The majority of the debris, 56%, was made up of food crumbs from the chocolate bars and biscuits that people like to snack on when using their computer.

Much of the rest was also food-related, but also in the dirt were dead insects as well as fingernail parings, small patches of dead skin and the odd hair.

Vigorous shaking

If the keyboard studied is typical, AOL UK estimates that almost 0.318 tonnes of what it calls "keyboard krumbs" will accumulate beneath all keyboards over the space of a year.

A spokeswoman for Reading Scientific Services said the company operated a strict confidentiality policy and could not comment on the research, or whether the accumulating grime constituted a health hazard.

To keep keyboards clean, office cleaning firms recommend that people regularly remove the keys, and vacuum, blow or shake off the dirt beneath.

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