Hand dryers can contaminate the air around them, study says

November 22, 2014  20:58

Given the choice between noisy hand dryers and tree-felling paper towels, dryers are the better option, right? Maybe not, at least when it comes to your health.

A University of Leeds study finds hand dryers, especially "jet-air" models, can actually spread germs around a public bathroom. To simulate what could linger after poor handwashing, researchers coated participants' hands with a harmless bacteria not typically found in bathrooms, FoxNews reported.

Participants then dried their hands, and scientists tested bacteria in the air near the various hand-drying options. What they found: The air around jet-air dryers held 27 times more bacteria than was found around paper towels, and 4.5 times more than around warm-air dryers.

Further, "a similar pattern was seen for bacterial counts [3 feet] away," they write. And that bacteria lingers: Half was collected in the air around dryers five minutes after use, with bacteria still hanging around after 15 minutes.

"Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer ... you may be splattered with bugs from other people's hands," a researcher says in a statement.

The researchers conclude "air dryers may be unsuitable for use in healthcare settings, as they may facilitate microbial cross-contamination."

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