Hand dryers may be unsuitable in health-care settings

Compared with paper towels, jet air and warm air dryers in public restrooms had higher bacteria levels.

HealthDay News -- Air-blown hand dryers in public restrooms may spread far more germs compared with conventional paper towels, according to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.

“The efficiency of hand drying is important in preventing pathogen spread, but knowledge surrounding which drying methods contribute least towards contamination of the environment and users is limited,” explained Mark Wilcox, PhD, of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.

To compare the propensity of three common hand-drying methods (jet air, warm air dryers, and paper towels) to contaminate the environment, users, and bystanders, the investigators placed a type of bacteria on the hands of volunteers to similar poorly washed hands. Airborne bacteria levels were measured to determine the efficacy of the three types of hand-drying methods.


Bacteria levels in the air around jet-air dyers were four and a half times higher compared with warm-air dryers and 27 times higher compared with the air around paper towel dispensers. The bacteria persisted in the air around hand dryers long after they were used, reported the scientists. Bacteria could still be detected 15 minutes after use.

“These results suggest that air dryers may be unsuitable for use in health-care settings, as they may facilitate microbial cross-contamination via airborne dissemination to the environment or bathroom visitors,” concluded the researchers.

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