Hand dryers spread more germs than towels

Hand dryers: Bacteria stayed in the air for up to 15 minutes after volunteers had finished drying their hands.

High-powered hand dryers may seem ultra-hygienic but spread more germs than paper towels, research has shown.

Scientists at the University of Leeds found that airborne germ counts around jet air dryers were 27 times higher than they were in the vicinity of paper towel dispensers.

Researchers carried out tests by contaminating hands with a harmless bacteria, lactobacillus, which is not normally found in public toilets.

Detection of lactobacillus in the air proved that it must have come from the hands during drying.

Bacterial counts close to jet air dryers were 4.5 times higher than they were near less powerful “warm” dryers and 27 times higher than around towel dispensers.

Next to the dryers, bacteria persisted in the air for up to 15 minutes after volunteers had finished drying their hands.

Lead scientist Mark Wilcox said: “Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer, you may be spreading bacteria without knowing it. You may also be splattered with bugs from other people’s hands.

“These findings are important for understanding the ways in which bacteria spread, with the potential to transmit illness and disease.”

The research, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, was presented at the Healthcare Infection Society meeting in Lyon, France.


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