Grosser Than Ever, Hot-Air Hand Dryers Spread Fecal Matter Throughout Buildings

Grosser Than Ever, Hot-Air Hand Dryers Spread Fecal Matter Throughout Buildings

Then hand dryers apparently suck it up and spray it on people's hands, posing a possible risk for the elderly or people with health problems.

Ideally, using high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA filters, can be a good way to prevent bacteria from traveling to a person's hand after using a bathroom hand dryer.

The independently-funded study looked at 36 University of Connecticut School of Medicine bathrooms and tested each hand dryer once for 30 seconds.

What's unclear, they admit, is just why the air-blasted plates showed so many more spores. In a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Connecticut researchers found bacteria dispersed by hot-air dryers spread throughout buildings.

IMPORTANCE While there is evidence that bathroom hand dryers can disperse bacteria from hands or deposit bacteria on surfaces, including recently washed hands, there is less information on (i) the organisms dispersed by hand dryers, (ii) whether hand dryers provide a reservoir of bacteria or simply blow large amounts of bacterially contaminated air, and (iii) whether bacterial spores are deposited on surfaces by hand dryers.

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The findings: Air-blasted plates carried 18-60 colonies of bacteria on average, whereas two minutes' exposure to the mere bathroom air left fewer than one colony on average.

The researchers checked inside the dryers to see if internal microbial buildup could play a role. However, he also stated that most people shouldn't worry about harmful bacteria potentially spreading after hand dryer use, though the devices are still best avoided by seniors and other people with weak immune systems.

If the bacteria captured on the plates did not come directly from the hand dryers, they had to come from the air in the bathroom, probably expelled into the air by toilet flushes. But B. subtilis was not alone: the plates exposed to hand dryers contained a total of 62 types of bacteria representing 21 species, including Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterium that remains associated with serious infections.

The idea with bathroom hand dryers is that they're supposed to be a more environmentally friendly way, as opposed to paper towels, to dry your hands after washing.

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