Originally published December 10 2014
Bathroom hand dryers aerosolize dangerous germs at 2,700% higher rate than using paper towels, study claims
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) Drying your hands after washing them is an automated and often thoughtless task for most of us; however, both hand dryers and paper towels take a substantial toll on the environment. Offices, shopping malls, businesses, restaurants and parks all contain public restrooms that require some sort of device for drying hands, leading to some staunch research regarding which methods are most effective for reducing environmental impacts and the spread of infectious disease.
For quite some time now, experts have believed that using paper towels for drying hands is one of the worst methods for the environment, accounting for 2 percent of total landfill space in the U.S. Also, their manufacture and transportation generates substantial amounts of carbon emissions, contributing to pollution and deforestation.
However, the results of a new study say using paper towels may be the safest practice for avoiding exposure to dangerous bacteria lurking in public restrooms, according to a recent report by The Telegraph.
Conducted by the University of Leeds in the UK, scientists found that high-powered "jet-air" and warm-air hand dryers can spread bacteria in public restrooms, leaving germs lingering in the air for a significant amount of time.
Warm hand dyers in public restrooms spread bacteria throughout the air, leaving those nearby vulnerable to getting sick
Airborne germ counts were found to be 27 times higher around jet air dryers than in the air around paper towel dispensers, scientists say. Led by Professor Mark Wilcox of the School of Medicine, researchers arrived at their results after contaminating their hands with a harmless type of bacteria called Lactobacillus, which is not normally found in public bathrooms, in order to mimic poorly washed hands.
The researchers detected Lactobacillus in the air, leading them to believe that it got there after drying their hands using a hand dryer. Air samples were collected around hand dryers, and at distances of one and two meters away.
"Air bacterial counts close to jet air dryers were found to be 4.5 times higher than around warm air dryers and 27 times higher compared with the air when using paper towels," reports The Telegraph.
"Next to the dryers, bacteria persisted in the air well beyond the 15 second hand-drying time, with approximately half (48 per cent) of the Lactobacilli collected more than five minutes after drying ended. Lactobacilli were still detected in the air 15 minutes after hand drying."
The results, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, helps shed new light on the way infectious diseases are transferred.
"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," explained Professor Wilcox.
"These findings are important for understanding the ways in which bacteria spread, with the potential to transmit illness and disease."
A spokesman for Dyson, a British company that manufactures hand dryers, among other devices, disputed Wilcox's research.
"This research was commissioned by the paper towel industry and [it's] flawed," said the spokesman. "They have tested glove covered hands, which have been contaminated with unrealistically high levels of bacteria, and not washed."
For years, Dyson has been in a battle with the paper towel industry, disputing research which suggests that there are "significant hygiene risks associated with jet air dryers and warm air dryers," according to a 2011 report by The Guardian.
Dyson insists that their cold-air-driven hand dryer is the best, as it's the most eco-friendly compared with other warm-air dryers that generate 70 percent more carbon emissions than the AirBlade, which was launched in the UK in 2006.
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