Hand dryers splatter bacteria into air and onto users, report warns

Jet hand dryers could spew up bacteria into the air, which then hang around for minutes, and paper towels are more hygienic

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 25 November 2014 14:40
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What people use to dry their hands after washing them has become the source of fierce debate
What people use to dry their hands after washing them has become the source of fierce debate

Hand dryers have long been thought to be the hygienic option, avoiding the spread of germs common in other options like towels. But the dryers could be spreading disease as the high-powered jets shoot it around the bathroom, a new study has found.

There were 27 times more airborne germs around jet dryers than around paper towel dispensers, which researchers recommending using.

The study, ‘Microbiological comparison of hand-drying methods’, was conducted by a team from the University of Leeds.

By contaminating people with a harmless bacteria, Lactobacillus, and then spreading it around a test bathroom, the researchers found that jet air dryers — such as Dyson’s Airblade — had around 4.5 times more bacteria around them than warm air dryers, and around 27 times more than using paper towels.

The bacteria stayed in the air long after drying finished — 48% of it was still around five minutes after drying ended, and there was still some in the air 15 minutes after drying had finished.

"Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer, you may be spreading bacteria without knowing it,” said Professor Mark Wilcox, who led the research team. “You may also be splattered with bugs from other people's hands.”

Other studies have contended that jet hand dryers are likely to push users to use them more often, since they take less time. Companies tend not to use the recommended paper towel option because of cost and environmental concerns.

A spokesperson for Dyson, one of the leading makers of such jet hand dryers, told the Telegraph that the research was unrealistic.

“This research was commissioned by the paper towel industry and it’s flawed,” they said. “They have tested glove covered hands, which have been contaminated with unrealistically high levels of bacteria, and not washed."

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